November 14, 2012

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly throws the ball in recent action. Last Saturday at Yale, Epperly passed for 66 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 91 yards and a score to help Princeton top the Bulldogs 29-7. The win improved Princeton to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in Ivy League play, tied for second with Harvard (7-2 overall 4-2 Ivy) in the league standings, one game behind Penn (5-4 overall, 5-1 Ivy). The Tigers end the season by hosting Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 3-3 Ivy) on November 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It is the kind of game-changing play that the Princeton University football team has failed to produce in recent seasons.

With Princeton locked in a 7-7 tie at Yale last Saturday late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs had second and goal at the Tiger five-yard-line and were poised to take the lead going into halftime.

Instead, Tiger defensive back Trocon Davis picked off a halfback option pass and raced 100 yards for a touchdown and it was Princeton that took a 14-7 lead into the dressing room at intermission.

Building on the momentum from Davis’ stunning play, the longest interception return in program history, the Tigers proceeded to roll to a 29-7 win over the Bulldogs before a crowd of 21,824 at the venerable Yale Bowl.

The win improved Princeton to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in Ivy League play, tied for second with Harvard (7-2 overall 4-2 Ivy) in the league standings, one game behind Penn (5-4 overall, 5-1 Ivy).

In addition to keeping the Tigers alive in the Ivy title race, the victory rekindled one of the school’s venerable traditions as a bonfire will be held on campus to celebrate the win over Yale coupled with an earlier triumph over Harvard. The celebration is slated for November 17 at 7 p.m. on Cannon Green.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was fired up by Davis’s play and what it represented in his eyes.

“I hope this really shows where we are going as a group,” said Surace. “We have not been able to make plays like that in the past where we were struggling but still playing hard. We kept battling.”

But Surace knew that Princeton’s first half struggles weren’t negated merely by Davis’ moment of brilliance.

“I went in right away and told the coaches that was the worst 30 minutes of the season,” said Surace. “We need to play the second half as though it is 0-0 and I expect our best 30 minutes of the season.”

The Tigers got the message as they controlled the second half, outscoring the Bulldogs 15-0 and holding Yale to only 104 yards total offense in the last 30 minutes of the contest.

“We took the opening kickoff and went right down and got a two-score lead,” said Surace.

“I thought the last 31 minutes were very good. It was good to bounce back within the game and good to bounce back from two tough losses.”

Princeton’s tough start was due in part to the Yale’s different look in the unexplained absence of sophomore running back Tyler Varga, who came into the game with a league-leading 839 yards rushing.

“We had spent a good part of the week preparing for Varga,” said Surace.

“With him not playing, 80 percent of the preparation went out the window. They were using a new scheme and they had us on our heels. They are the only team in the league to beat Penn so they are as good as anybody. We couldn’t get first downs and we didn’t have time to make adjustments.”

In the early going, things looked good for Yale as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead with Grant Wallace catching a 14-yard touchdown pass from Harry Furman.

Princeton knotted the game at 7-7 midway through the second quarter as junior Roman Wilson scored on a one-yard touchdown run.

The Tigers took a 14-7 lead into halftime on the heels of the Davis interception return as he crossed the goal line with 1:01 remaining in the second quarter.

Building on the momentum from the Davis pick six, Princeton took the opening kickoff of the second half and produced a 9-play, 65-yard scoring march. The drive culminated with a one-yard touchdown plunge by sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly. Kicker Nolan Bieck took a high snap and ran in for a two-point conversion to give Princeton a 22-7 advantage.

Later in the quarter, Yale appeared to have a touchdown as Mordecai Cargill burst into the end zone. But senior Mandela Shaeffer stripped the ball and freshman Anthony Gaffney fell on the ball for the Tigers.

“We stopped their back and he fumbled in the end zone,” said Surace, reflecting on the key turnover. “Anthony Gaffney came from the back side and got the fumble. He hustled past six Yale guys. Those are the things you like to see as a coach.”

Princeton put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, producing its longest drive of the season time-wise, taking 6:57 to march 69 yards in 13 plays.

Epperly hit sophomore receiver Matt Costello with a nine-yard scoring strike as Princeton went up 29-7.

The Tigers stopped Yale on downs in its next possession and then ran out the clock as it sealed its first win in the Yale Bowl since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.

With the Tigers needing to win over Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 3-3 Ivy) in its season finale this Saturday and Penn to lose at Cornell to earn a share of the league title, Surace will be reminding his team of a nightmarish experience he had six years ago during his NFL days.

“In 2006 when I was coaching with the Bengals, we had to beat the Steelers, and three other teams had to lose for us to make the playoffs,” recalled Surace.

“Some of the guys got engaged in sending messages to the other teams and they lost focus. We lost in OT to the Steelers; we made uncharacteristic mistakes. Our kicker missed field goals. We dropped balls and made mistakes. We lost an opportunity to make the playoffs and maybe make a run. We need to take care of our own business. Nothing good happens for us if we don’t beat Dartmouth.”

Princeton must bring the focus it showed in the second half against Yale in order to overcome a solid Big Green squad.

“They have played extremely well, they lost to Penn on the last play and gave up a late score in losing to Brown,” noted Surace in assessing Dartmouth.

“They are a young team like us; it is like looking in the mirror. The running back [Dominick] Pierre is a stud. They are playing a freshman QB [Dalyn Williams] along with a sophomore [Alex Park] and the freshman is one of the passing efficiency leaders in the league. They have two wideouts [Michael Reilly, Ryan McMaunus] who are terrific. The offensive line has improved. Defensively, they have been strong since I got in the league. They are good up front, they are fundamentally sound.”

TITLE CHASE: Princeton University field hockey senior star ­Katie Reinprecht heads up the field in a game earlier this fall. Last Sunday, midfielder Reinprecht tallied a goal and two assists as No. 2 Princeton topped seventh-ranked Virginia 5-2 in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Tigers, now 19-1, will face No. 6 Maryland (18-5) on November 16 at Norfolk, Va. in one national semifinal with the winner advancing to the title game on November 18 against the victor of the North Carolina-Syracuse semi matchup. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In late October, the second-ranked Princeton University field hockey team got a scare as it pulled out a 2-1 win over No. 7 Virginia.

When the programs met again last Sunday in the NCAA quarterfinals, it looked for a while like the Cavaliers might turn the tables on the Tigers as Virginia jumped out to leads of 1-0 and 2-1 early in the contest at Charlottesville, Va.

But Princeton junior goalie Christina Maida wasn’t concerned. “We knew this game was going to have a lot of highs and lows,” said Maida.

“At this level of field hockey there are always going to be some goals conceded but we knew that we just had to keep fighting and it paid off in the end.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn likewise had confidence that her players would come through.

“We knew that they would try to make it into a track meet and they were successful in that first bit,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We just had to maintain our composure. These guys have extraordinary will and great organization.”

Utilizing that will and its great skill, Princeton scored two goals midway through the first half to take a 3-2 lead into the break. In the first seven minutes of the second half, Tiger senior star Kat Sharkey found the back of the cage twice and Princeton never looked back on the way to a 5-2 triumph and its first trip to the Final 4 since 2009.

Once Princeton pulled ahead 3-2, Maida felt the Tigers would take control of the contest.

“It was back and forth, back and forth and once it was 3-2 we said it is not going to be back and forth, it is just going to be us scoring goals,” said Maida. “We played really strong defense; they had a lot of corners but we held them and it was awesome.”

It was an awesome feeling for Maida to be heading to her first final four. “I have wanted this since I got here,” said Maida, a native of Doylestown, Pa. who has a goals against average of 1.06 this season in helping Princeton go 19-1.

“As a freshman, the class before that had gone to the final four and that is all that I heard about. We just wanted this so badly and these past years we have had losses in the first or second round of the tournament so it is so amazing to get to the final four. We are so excited.”

Holmes-Winn was excited to see this group make it to the national semis in Norfolk, Va. where they will face No. 6 Maryland (18-5) on November 16 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 18 against the victor of the North Carolina-Syracuse semi matchup.

“You just work all year on making sure that you get the details right,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals from sophomore Sydney Kirby with Katie Reinprecht chipping in a goal and two assists.

“I am just so happy for this group because they are such amazing young women. They deserve it. They work their heart and soul out everyday. They just played a real professional game so it is amazing.”

Holmes-Winn credited Virginia with making Princeton work hard all over the field.

“They pressed us,” said Holmes-Winn. “I thought they did a great job, certainly in the opening minutes to strip Julia [Reinprecht] and create an opportunity. It was good for us to see that; no one has really pressed us in a while so it was good to face that going into next weekend.”

In facing Maryland, Princeton will be looking to maintain the focus that helped the Tigers edge the Terps 3-2 in early October.

“This is not our first rodeo; we have been around for a while so I think this team is going to keep doing what we have been doing,” said Holmes-Winn, who has guided the Tigers to eight straight Ivy League titles and two final fours.

“Taking care of the small things because that is what wins you games. I think we will keep paying attention to details and stay sharp and stay focused.”

Maida, for her part, sees the win over Virginia as proof that Princeton has a lot of things going in its favor.

“At the end of the day, we sustained the energy,” said Maida. “We have got one complete team and that is the difference between them and us I think. We play as a unit and that really paid off.”

And by Sunday afternoon, the Tigers might prove to have the best unit in the country.

SPECIAL RUN: Princeton University women’s soccer star Jen Hoy, right, chases down the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Hoy notched the game-winning goal as Princeton edged West Virginia 2-1 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to win its 12th straight contest and post its first victory in the national tournament since 2004. The Tigers, now 14-3-1, will face Big East champion Marquette (17-2-2) in the round of 32 on November 15 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The winner of that game will face the victor of the BYU-Auburn contest in the next round. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University women’s soccer team brought an 11-game winning streak into its NCAA opening round game at West Virginia, the host team wasn’t overly impressed.

“I think they were totally unprepared for us,” said Princeton head coach Julie Shackford. “I don’t think they knew how good we were.”

It didn’t long for the Mountaineers to realize that they were facing a good foe as Tiger sophomore Lynessa McGee scored a goal in the fifth minute of the contest to give Princeton a 1-0 lead. Senior star Jen Hoy added another tally in the 54th minute to double the Tiger lead.

West Virginia responded with a goal in the 82nd minute but it was not enough as Princeton held on for a 2-1 victory, improving to 14-3-1 in the process.

The Tigers will now face Big East champion Marquette (17-2-2) in the round of 32 on November 15 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The winner of that game will face the victor of the BYU-Auburn contest in the next round.

As Princeton got ready for the clash at West Virginia, Shackford sensed that her team wasn’t happy to just be in the tournament.

“The kids wanted to win; it was not good enough to just be there,” said Shackford, who is in her 18th season at the helm of the Tiger program. “They have been grinding axes all year.”

Senior goalie Claire Pinciano helped Princeton grind out the win, making seven saves as the Tigers weathered the late charge by West Virginia.

“Claire had a phenomenal game; she made some really big saves,” said Shackford. “It was her best game in her four years here.”

Hoy, the Ivy League Player of the Year, is having one of the best seasons in Princeton history.

“Jen is creating or scoring; she seems almost unstoppable,” said Shackford of Hoy, who now has 18 goals this fall, just two behind the single-season record set by current assistant coach Esmeralda Negron in 2004.

“She blew by the Big 12 Defender of the Year like she was running backwards.”

In continuing its amazing run, the Tigers notched its first NCAA win since 2004. That team went on to win four games and advance to the College Cup semifinals.

While Shackford isn’t ready to say that her 2012 team can match those heroics, she believes her current squad could pull some more surprises.

“I think we are capable of going far; we do have a lot of injuries so that concerns me,” said Shackford, noting that four starters have been sidelined due to injury and that two others, McGee and Allison Nabatoff, are doubtful for the Marquette game.

“There are parallels to Negron and [Emily] Behncke and that team. Some teams only have one finisher, we have several kids who can finish.”

Shackford knows that Princeton is facing a tough team in Marquette. “They are very athletic, they go forward with pace and they are stingy on defense,” said Shackford. “They won the Big East tournament.”

But the Golden Eagles would be well advised to not take the Tigers lightly.

“We are not going to back down from anybody; I think it will be hard to knock us out,” said Shackford.

“It has been a dream team to coach, they have done everything we have asked and they are invested.”

JACKED UP: Princeton University men’s hockey player Michael Zajac, left, celebrates after scoring a goal in a 4-0 win over visiting Colgate last Saturday. Freshman forward Zajac enjoyed a big weekend in his Baker Rink debut, tallying a goal and an assist on Friday as the Tigers topped fourth-ranked Cornell 5-3. Princeton, now 2-2 overall and 2-0 in ECAC Hockey action, plays at St. Lawrence on November 16 and at Clarkson on November 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For most hockey players, a year or two of junior hockey after high school is a prerequisite to success on the ice at the college level.

Michael Zajac is proving to be the exception to the rule as he has gone straight from Eagan High in Minnesota to a rousing start in his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team.

Last Friday, Zajac made his debut at Baker Rink as Princeton hosted No. 4 Cornell and emerged as a star of the game, scoring his first career goal and adding an assist to help the Tigers beat the Big Red 5-3.

A day later, the 6’3, 210-pound forward chipped in a goal as Princeton blanked Colgate 4-0 to improve to 2-2 overall and 2-0 in ECAC Hockey play.

For Zajac, the first home weekend of his college career was one he won’t soon forget.

“It was unbelievable; I am thankful that my parents came all the way from Minnesota to see it,” said Zajac.

“Both of my parents and my little sister got to see my first goal so I couldn’t be more happy for that. After you get your first one, it is a huge weight off of your shoulders. The second one is definitely just as exciting. I am just glad I can help my team get the win.”

In Zajac’s view, the team’s success last weekend was the product of diligence in training.

“We had a great practice week; we worked our butts off. I think it is just a compilation of our hard work we put in, the sweat and tears during the week. It was great getting the sweep.”

For Zajac, making the transition to the college game has involved sweating the details.

“The biggest adjustment is definitely the speed of the game, how quickly the pucks move,” said Zajac.

“Also the physicality, people are a lot bigger and stronger. Passes are a lot crisper and you have to be ready for the puck at all times because you are playing with some great players who can make great plays at any time.”

In making such rapid progress, Zajac has benefited from playing on a line with junior captain Jack Berger and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum.

“I couldn’t ask for two better linemates,” said Zajac. “They are both tremendous leaders on our team, both captains. They definitely give me instructive criticism when I need it, which definitely helped tonight. I couldn’t ask for two better leaders to show me the ropes of college hockey.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier couldn’t ask for more from his freshman star.

He is a big, tough kid,” said Prier. “To have him come in and play like the manchild as he has is encouraging. He does everything really hard; he has a heavy shot. He thinks the game well. He has got a high skill level and great poise with the puck for first-year kid so kudos to him. He has certainly earned those goals; crashing the net and being around the net. He scored goals at the high school level and he has those same habits where he is getting them here. He is big and strong enough that he has made the adjustment rather well.”

It was a strong goal by Kleebaum in the third period of the win over Cornell on Friday that jump-started the Tigers.

“That first win is a tough one to get, no doubt about it,” said Prier, whose team led the Big Red 2-0 after two periods and then fell behind 3-2 before Kleebaum scored to trigger a three-goal avalanche.

“I think the way that we won with Rob Kleebaum scoring just an incredible goal. It was a great goal. It was a goal where he had tremendous will to just make it. It changed the entire attitude and momentum of the game. Once he did that as a senior forward, it got us thinking in the right direction. Here we go, we can do this. Sometimes, that is what you need.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers sorely needed to put together two big efforts on home ice.

“It gets us moving in the right direction,” said Prier, who got goals from Mike Ambrosia, Tyler Maugeri, and Michael Sdao in the win over Colgate with Andrew Calof chipping in two assists.

“It gets the guys in the right mindset, understanding how they need to play to be successful. Turning into a little bit of a more methodical team is nice to see. The guys had some great individual efforts out there, too.”

Senior goalie Mike Condon gave Princeton a great effort over the weekend, making 22 saves in the win over Cornell and then recording 22 stops against Colgate in earning his second career shutout.

“I think he certainly learned a lot in the first three games he played and he certainly put it to work tonight,” said Prier.

“That wasn’t an easy game for him to play. Colgate is a very offensive team. They are a hot and cold team with a ton of skill so he did a great job against a team that does score a lot of goals.”

Junior forward Calof flashed his skill against Colgate as he set up the goals by Ambrosia and Maugeri.

“I assume that Calof is one of the top producers already in the league and he has to just keep it going because I think that’s what he expects out of himself,” added Prier of Calof who has a team-high seven points on three goals and four assists.

“He plays with such poise; he made two incredible plays on Maugeri’s goal and the Ambrosia goal.”

The Tigers got some poised play from bruising senior defenseman and assistant captain Sdao.

“He had an incredible weekend,” asserted Prier. “This is the best weekend I have seen him have in the year I have been here. It is fun to see him separate guys from pucks and do it in a clean way. He didn’t get a penalty all weekend and he was by far the toughest kid in both games.”

With Princeton playing its next seven games on the road, Prier is looking for his team to hang tough away from the friendly confines of Baker Rink.

“If we want to be the team that we seek to be, we have to do well,” said Prier, whose team plays at St. Lawrence (5-2-1 overall, 0-1-1 ECACH) on November 16 and at Clarkson (1-4-4 overall, 1-0-1 ECACH) on November 17.

“We don’t have a choice. It is nice to have a home ice advantage. We have to develop that same type of the game on the road too and just play the same way.”

Zajac, for his part, believes the Tigers can build on the success they experienced last weekend.

“Road games are tough, you don’t have the satisfaction of playing in front of your own fans,” said Zajac.

“Definitely getting two wins will put some fire in our bellies and show the country what the Tigers are made of.”

TAKING AIM: Princeton University men’s basketball player ­Brendan Connolly takes a free throw at practice last week. The 6’11, 255-pound senior center contributed eight points and two rebounds last Saturday as Princeton won 57-53 at Buffalo in its season opener. The Tigers host Rutgers on November 16.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Brendan Connolly believes that the Princeton University men’s basketball team gained a lot from its journey this past summer to Spain.

“I think we got to work out what you think of as early season mistakes,” said senior center Connolly, reflecting on the 10-day excursion which saw Princeton play four games against Spanish pro teams.

“Off the court, we loved it. We still talk about it. It furthered the relationship that was already there with the guys.”

Connolly and his teammates were looking for a productive jaunt last Saturday as they played at Buffalo in the season opener for both teams.

“It will be a good trip for us right off the bat,” said Connolly. “I am excited for the opportunity to test ourselves and show that we are going to work hard every night. That’s what it is going to be all about.”

The Tigers produced some good work as they edged Buffalo 57-53 with Connolly contributing eight points and two rebounds. Junior Will Barrett led the way for Princeton in the win with 20 points and nine rebounds while senior star Ian Hummer chipped in 12 points, seven assists, and six rebounds.

For the 6’11, 255-pound Connolly, the performance in the win last Saturday marked the latest step in his progression into a key player for the Tigers.

“I think obviously there were statistical improvements that you could see last year; I just think things were coming together,” said Connolly, who averaged 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds a game last winter.

“I worked as hard as I needed to and it showed up at the end of the season and that is what you want. I wish it had showed up a bit earlier but I am glad it happened when it did and I am trying to continue with that.”

Connolly will also be looking to continue the partnership he has formed with classmate Mack Darrow as the two emerged as a potent 1-2 punch at center for Princeton.

“Because we bring such different things, I think it works pretty well; neither of us are jealous about playing time,” said Connolly.

“We get on the court when we do and we are happy with that. We know what we can bring to this game individually and we just try to work on that. I think that I can show up in certain defensive scenarios and there are certain defensive scenarios where Mack is just a better fit. It is the same thing with offense because he can stretch the floor so well.”

The team’s senior class, which includes Ian Hummer in addition to Connolly and Darrow, is looking to show the ropes to the younger players.

“We are trying to do the little things more because we have been around the block more than the other guys,” said Connolly.

“That is really where it comes in; not necessarily knowing that this is the last chance but knowing that we’ve seen more than other guys have seen and we can bring more to the table. We are definitely trying to bring them along and just show them what it takes to work hard and have success at this level.”

In Connolly’s view, Princeton could experience a lot of success this winter.

“We think we can do big things, I will leave it at that,” said Connolly of the Tigers, who finished third in the Ivy League last winter after winning the crown in the 2010-11 campaign.

“It is going to take a lot of things to come together. There is no sure thing ever in any season. We know what our goals are and what we want to get to.”

OPENING SHOT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kate Miller takes a shot in a recent practice. Last Sunday, senior forward Miller and the Tigers got their 2012-13 season off to a good start as they opened with a 69-59 win at St. Joseph’s. Princeton, the three-time defending Ivy League champion, will look to keep on the winning track when it plays at Marist on November 17 and then hosts Rider on November 20.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University women’s basketball team has gone 41-1 in Ivy League play over the last three seasons and was picked first in the league’s 2012-13 media preseason poll, Kate Miller doesn’t believe complacency will be an issue this winter.

“It is really exciting going into the year,” said senior forward Miller, a native of Rumson, N.J.

“We have so much pride that we have built over the years and the coaches have done a great job of keeping it within the lines. We play for the name on the front of our shirts and that is all that matters.”

The team’s outstanding play over the last three years has been fueled by a selfless mentality.

“It is something special to have such a talented group of girls that care more about each other than themselves individually,” added Miller.

“I think as long as we keep that and we just fight for Princeton, the target makes it fun.”

Miller and the Tigers had fun last Sunday as they topped St. Joseph’s 69-59 in the season opener. Senior star Niveen Rasheed scored a team-high 14 points for the Tigers while junior guard Nicole Hung chipped in 12.

The 6’0 Miller contributed two points and two rebounds in the victory as she began her second season as a full-time starter for the Tigers.

“You definitely have to own up a little more,” said Miller, reflecting on her play last winter when she averaged 5.9 points and 3.2 rebounds a game.

“This team is great, no one is super selfish; they let you play to your strengths more. I looked to be more of an offensive threat but also stay within the role of our offense and defense. This isn’t a team about superstars or stats, it just works to have all of us fight for the win. That’s all I want.”

With the graduation of Devona Allgood and Lauren Edwards, who combined for nearly 2,500 points in their Tiger careers, Miller knows that she needs to put up some more offensive stats.

“I think missing those two, all of us have to really step up and fill those missing points,” said Miller.

“I think we have the talent to do it. For me, being a senior and having three years under my belt will help with that.”

Getting the game against St. Joe’s under their belt was a good first step for the Tigers.

“It is always exciting to see where we stand,” added Miller, who will look to help keep the squad on the winning track as it plays at Marist on November 17 before hosting Rider on November 20.

“We practice against each other. We know our offenses and our plays so it is nice to put it against someone who doesn’t know.”

Miller and her teammates are excited about Princeton’s non-conference schedule which will pit it against a number of national powers as it hones things before getting into the Ivy season.

“Our coaches match us up against really tough teams,” said Miller, reflecting on a schedule that includes such foes as UCLA, Rutgers, DePaul, Villanova, Delaware, and Navy.

“We might have more losses than we are used to but to play in those games gives us the experience that we will all benefit from over the long term of the season. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is good to get the kinks out and the experience in the preseason and then we go through the Ivies. Being able to recall games and how we played against our preseason teams really helps to build that confidence if we get back to postseason play.”

For Miller and her fellow seniors, Rasheed, Lauren Polansky, and Meg Bowen, making some noise in the postseason is a major goal.

“We came in and we have been fighting for four years for a tournament win,” said Miller.

“We got really close last year. This is the year where it really is your team and I think the four of us feel that and hope it resonates through the team.”

While Hurricane Sandy has disrupted life on many levels in the tri-state area over the last two weeks, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team was able to keep on track.

With the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet having been moved back a week to November 10, the PHS runners were determined not to lose their edge.

“The kids contacted me and asked what they should do on the their own,” said PHS head coach John Woodside, whose team placed second at the Mercer County Championships on October 26 in its last action before the superstorm hit the area.

“Most of them worked out on their own on Wednesday. We were able to have practice on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They kept their focus. They said this meet is going to happen and they were going to be prepared.”

That preparation paid dividends last Saturday as PHS placed first in the sectional meet, giving the program its second straight Central Jersey crown.

“I was very proud of what they did,” said Woodside, reflecting on the win, which saw the Little Tigers come in with 61 points with runner-up Hopewell Valley at 71 and Middletown South taking third with 75.

“It was special to stand with them and hold the trophy together. They knew what it takes to win and they did the work.”

In Woodside’s view, it was togetherness that helped pave the way to the title repeat.

“At the beginning of the season, we always tell them that this is a team sport,” said Woodside.

“If you have three or four good guys, it is really good to have three or four more. If one guy has a bad day, someone else can step up. They are all in it together; they understand the team concept.”

Senior star Luke Bozich has emerged as a key for PHS, battling through injury to set the pace for the squad. In the sectional meet, Bozich placed fifth individually, covering the 3.1 mile course at Thompson Park in 16:17. Sophomore Jacob Rist was the next finisher for the Little Tigers, taking 12th with junior Sage Healy placing 14th, junior Conor Donahue coming in 16th, and junior Kevin Vahdat finishing 20th.

“I knew all along what we had with Luke,” said Woodside. “He took a couple of spills early in the season. He missed some time and some races. If he could stay on his feet, I knew he would do well. I have respect for the way he works and respect for his leadership. A team needs a guy to set a tone and he does that for us. He runs hard and he is fearless. The guys are supporting him and he supports them. They feed off of each other.”

Woodside was proud of the team’s supporting cast. “Rist had his breakout race at the counties; that was the first race where he was in that spot,” said Woodside.

“Conor did really well. We put Sage in and he does well. He ran in the JV race at the counties. He came out today and ran a great race for us.”

Junior Vahdat may have run the most courageous race for the Little Tigers last Saturday.

“Vahdat was really sick last weekend and early this week,” said Woodside. “He came back to practice on Wednesday and did the workout on Thursday. He came in Friday and he was drained so we sent him home. I was hoping to get something from him and he battled hard to come in fifth for us.”

PHS is going to be in for a battle this weekend at the run in the state Group III meet at Holmdel on November 17.

“That is a different animal; there are a lot of good teams,” said Woodside.

“We are looking forward to groups. We could run a great race and not be in the top three. The benchmark is whether they work hard and run their best.

In August, when we were talking about the season, I think the group meet was the target. They want to have a great race at that meet. We are going to fight hard and do the work next week.”

No matter what happens at the group meet, the Little Tiger program has certainly made great strides.

“I like the fact that we have put PHS back on the map in terms of high level success and the number of kids participating,” said Woodside, who is in his 12th season at the helm of the program.

“It is nice to see that PHS is a power again in cross country. We have developed a reputation for success. The program has a great history but there have been valleys. Things weren’t good in the 1990s. When I started kids didn’t know what cross country was. We are establishing a great program; the kids are racing well. I am excited to see how they do.”

B-LINE: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan eyes the ball last Saturday as PDS hosted Newark Academy in the state Prep B semifinals. Junior midfielder Brennan scored an early goal to help spark the Panthers to a 6-2 win. A day later, PDS fell 2-0 to Montclair Kimberley in the Prep B title game to finish the fall with an 11-4-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Brennan had extra responsibility on her shoulders last Saturday as the Princeton Day School field hockey team hosted Newark Academy in the state Prep B semifinals.

With midfield running mate Mary Travers sidelined by a concussion, junior Brennan knew that she had to step up.

“It was definitely more work because Mary is a great player,” said Brennan. “I think we all came together to make up for her absence.”

Having not played since losing to WW/P-N on October 23 in the Mercer County Tournament and with Hurricane Sandy disrupting its practice routine, Brennan and the Panthers were excited to be back in action.

“We were all really focused when we got back out on the field,” said Brennan. “The start was really great; getting us right back in the swing of things.”

Brennan helped PDS get off to a flying start on Saturday, notching a goal six minutes into the contest to draw first blood as the Panthers built a 3-1 halftime lead.

“I really just reacted, it went up and my stick followed it,” said Brennan reflecting on her goal which came off an assist by senior star and Princeton-bound Andrea Jenkins.

“It was really good to get the momentum and get the comfortable lead so we could settle in and do all the things we have been practicing.”

The Panthers kept up the momentum on the second half, outscoring Newark 3-1 over the last 30 minutes of the game to pull away to a 6-2 triumph.

“Mrs. Arndt [PDS head coach Tracey Arndt] said never let off the pressure because the second you let off the pressure, they can come back,” said Brennan. “We just stayed hard throughout the whole game.”

Brennan’s hard play in the midfield is the product, in part, of extra work she has put in with the Mystyx club program in Pennsylvania.

“I did Mystyx in the offseason; I have been playing non-stop since last season and it has just made me a lot better as a player,” said Brennan, joking that she gets some of her toughness from her father, Sean, a star defensive back for the Princeton University football team in the 1980s. “It has taught me aggression and tenacity in general.”

While PDS ended up losing 2-0 to Montclair-Kimberley in the Prep B title game on Sunday, advancing that far was a testament to the collective tenacity of the Panther squad.

“It is great; we have been trying to do it for three years now and we finally did it,” said Brennan. “I am just so happy.”

While PDS head coach Arndt wasn’t happy to see her team come up short in the title game, she was impressed by the character the players have displayed in their postseason run.

“One great thing out of this is that we really had to come together as a team and fight through adversity more than just on the hockey field,” said Arndt, who guided the Panthers to an 11-4-3 record this fall in her debut season with the program.

“We have practiced inside the gym; we have practiced in freezing cold. We haven’t really had the type of practice I would say that would get us ready but they pulled through.”

Arndt credited Brennan with coming through big time in the win over Newark Academy.

“Sarah is really used to playing with Mary Travers; they are a dynamic duo and she didn’t have her but she had to step up there,” said Arndt.

“She and A.J. [Jenkins] play really well together. She has grown into a poised player who knows her role in the center. That finish was a great finish for her and it sparked the rest of the game.”

The Panthers showed some good finishing across the board in the win as Corinne Urisko and Emma Quigley each had two goals in the win with Emily Goldman and Jenkins scoring one apiece.

“One thing we have really focused on is our finishing and making sure that we don’t rely on one or two people,” said Arndt.

“When one of the leading scorers had been out in Emma, we really had to figure out who was going to pick it up and they just decided we are all going to do it.”

Although the Panthers couldn’t pick up any goals in the title game, Arndt had no qualms with her players’ effort.

“We played hard to the final whistle,” said Arndt. “It is sad to lose but they played as hard as they could and that is all I can ask. It isn’t about wins and losses, it is about friendships and memories. They will always remember the bus ride yesterday and playing in a state title game.”

Arndt will always remember the contribution she got this fall from her senior group which includes Sarah Trigg, Zeeza Cole, and Cami McNeely in addition to Urisko and Jenkins.

“They have leadership galore; they have personalities to match, they have work ethic to match,” asserted Arndt, noting that all five seniors were key starters.

“They just don’t stop. They are there for each other; they know what’s right. They are just great leaders and great examples of hard work and commitment. We would have been lost without them.”

It didn’t take long for Arndt to realize that the PDS squad was committed to doing big things this fall.

“I knew when I first met with them this spring that they were a special group,” said Arndt. “They were on a mission to be as good as they could be and bond as a group.”

Brennan, for her part, believes that the team’s deep bond was a major factor in its success.

“Everyone is a year older and a year better,” said Brennan. “I know a lot of people have started playing club in the offseason. We are all really close friends off the field too which makes a really huge difference. Everyone calls us the field hockey cult. We are really close.”

November 7, 2012

CROWNING TOUCH: Princeton University women’s soccer star Caitlin Blosser looks for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Penn, senior forward Blosser scored the final goal of the game as Princeton prevailed 4-2 to clinch a perfect Ivy League campaign. The Tigers, now 13-3-1 overall and 7-0 Ivy, play at West Virginia (11-4-4) this weekend in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s soccer team locked in a 3-2 dogfight last Saturday against visiting Penn and an undefeated Ivy League season on the line, the ball bounced to Caitlin Blosser in front of the goal.

The Princeton senior forward was determined to come through with the Tigers on their heels after the Quakers rallied from a 3-0 deficit.

“Jen Hoy did all the work and I got to pick it up at the end,” said Blosser. “I know getting that opportunity that if I didn’t finish it, I would have regretted it. I needed to finish the goal and I wanted to finish the game out.”

Blosser finished the play with aplomb, blasting the ball into the top of the net to give the Princeton a much-needed insurance goal as it went on to a 4-2 victory.

The win was the 11th straight for Princeton and clinched the league title and a berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament as the Tigers ended the regular season at 13-3-1 overall and 7-0 Ivy. Princeton will be playing at West Virginia (11-4-4) this weekend in the first round of the national tourney.

In the wake of a raucous postgame celebration which started with the league trophy presentation at midfield of Roberts Stadium, Blosser savored the achievement of producing an undefeated league campaign.

“In any league you are in, it is so hard to do, “ said Blosser. “We knew coming into this week’s game that even though we knew we had partially clinched the title, we wanted to win it all. We wanted to get that undefeated record and clinch the NCAA berth. We didn’t want any drawing out of a hat.”

It has been a hard road for Blosser who has experienced an up-and-down career which saw her go from scoring one goal as a freshman in 2009 to tallying six goals and seven assists in an All-Ivy campaign sophomore season but then dropping off to two goals in an injury-shortened 2011 campaign.

Blosser’s struggles exemplify the journey traveled by the team’s eight seniors.

“We have been through some ups and downs, especially with all the injuries we have been through,” said Blosser of the class who had posted a pedestrian overall record of 22-23-5 coming into this fall, including a disappointing 6-10-1 record in 2011.

“I think there was another motivation, specifically coming from our class, because we haven’t won one yet. We wanted it, we knew we deserved it. We knew we had the talent on this team to do it.”

Blosser has benefitted from playing up front with such talents as classmate Jen Hoy, the top goal scorer in the Ivies with 17, and sophomore star Lauren Lazo, who had three goals in the win over Penn.

“Both Hoy and Lazo are phenomenal players,” asserted Blosser. “They have done a great job in helping us create chances up there with their speed and athleticism.”

The team has developed a togetherness which has helped it maximize its chances.

“Ultimately, it is chemistry; everyone is so connected,” explained Blosser.

“There is no division whatsoever; everyone is so together. Everyone has worked for our goal, whether they are sitting on the bench or playing. We are all supportive of each other.”

Blosser and her classmates have played a key role in helping to develop that team unity.

“I think we have a strong senior class, we knew going into this year that if we didn’t win it, we would be upset,” said Blosser, who now has five goals this season and 14 in her Princeton career. “We came into this season knowing what we had to do and just getting everyone up to that level.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford credits her senior group with setting a winning tone this fall.

“It was a well-led team with eight seniors; they are the ones who put things in place for us to have a good season,” said Shackford.

“They did a great job with our team culture and with 28 kids, that is not always easy.”

In Shackford’s view, that culture helped the Tigers overcome hurdles on their way to a perfect league campaign.

“Any time in our sport, which is such an unforgiving game, to go 7-0 is really special,” said Shackford.

“We lost three or four starters throughout the year and I thought the team absorbed all of that. It seemed like when one went down, there was somebody else there to step in and do just as well. I just think that we have a bunch of kids that can finish that was the difference.”

In assessing what made the difference in the team’s winning streak, Shackford points to an early-season defeat.

“They all say, and maybe I agree, that it was the game against California Irvine,” said Shackford, referring to the team’s 2-1 loss to the Anteaters on September 16, the team’s last defeat.

“We spent most of the game defending with 10 players. Coming out of that trip, they really felt like they learned a lot about themselves. They were pretty confident going forward.”

Shackford, who has led the Tigers to seven previous NCAA trips including a run to the semifinals in 2004, is confident that her team can do well in the national tourney.

“We are excited about the prospects going forward,” said Shackford. “We are going to enjoy it.”

Blosser, for her part, believes Princeton could enjoy a deep tournament run.

“I think we can do some damage,” maintained Blosser. “We have the talent and we certainly have the mentality. We are a great team.”


TRIPPED UP: Princeton University sophomore running back Will Powers gets tripped up in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday against visiting Penn, Powers made a 30-yard touchdown catch and rushed for a team-high 39 yards but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 28-21. Princeton, now 4-4 overall and 3-2 Ivy League, will look to get back on the winning track when it plays at Yale (2-6 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, the Princeton University football team held a marked statistical edge as it hosted Penn last Saturday.

The Tigers were ranked second in the Ivy League in both scoring offense and scoring defense while the Quakers were sixth in the two key categories.

But Penn has shown a quality not measured in numbers, an ability to pull out close games. Penn had won nailbiters this fall against Dartmouth (28-21), Columbia (24-20), and Brown (20-17) to go 3-1 in Ivy League play, tied atop the league standings with Princeton and Harvard.

A revitalized Princeton team tried to give Penn a taste of its own medicine as it took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter last Saturday before a hardy crowd of 7,494 in Princeton Stadium, braving chilly winds days after Hurricane Sandy had howled through the area.

The Quakers, though, followed their blueprint for success, producing late game heroics as they scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and then held off a late Princeton drive to escape with a 28-21 triumph and their sixth straight win in the rivalry.

A glum Princeton head coach Bob Surace didn’t hide his disappointment as he reflected on a game that got away from the Tigers, who committed four turnovers and made some critical mistakes on special teams.

“It is just frustrating; it is two weeks in a row where we had opportunities to close a game out and we didn’t do it,” said Surace, whose team had lost 37-35 to Cornell on October 27.

“That is the bottom line; there is no excuse for it. We have to learn to be a more disciplined team and to take better care of the ball.”

The team’s lack of discipline left Princeton’s league title hopes on life support as Harvard rolled past Columbia to join Penn at 4-1 in Ivy play with Princeton at 3-2 and only two games remaining in the season.

“I let them know that there is a likelihood that we are not going to reach our goals,” said Surace, recalling his postgame message to his squad after it fell to 4-4 overall despite outgaining Penn 444 yards to 307. “We lost the chance to control our own destiny with those things.”

Princeton junior defensive back Philip Bhaya, who made a key second quarter interception to set up a touchdown for the Tigers, echoed Surace’s sentiments.

“It is a real tough one to swallow; we haven’t had too much success the past couple of years,” said Bhaya.

“I think this one is especially tough because this team is definitely a special team. We have been really playing hard and together and with everything on the table for us after winning those games, it is really disappointing for us to come up short here.”

Penn head coach Al Bagnoli said his team had a “been there, done that” feeling when it headed into the fourth quarter locked in a tight contest.

“We don’t get rattled, we have been in so many close games,” said Bagnoli. “We have gotten an awful lot of practice in it and we have gotten a lot of confidence in our ability late to make some plays under duress. We have probably had six, seven, or eight games in the last two seasons that have come down to two-minute drives or come down to last plays.”

The Tigers showed their renewed confidence as they fought back all afternoon. After Penn jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Princeton cashed in Bhaya’s interception, marching 24 yards in a drive that culminated with Quinn Epperly’s three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Hayes to make it a 7-7 game midway through the second quarter.

On their next possession, the Tigers took the lead. Going 66 yards in eight plays, Princeton found paydirt as Connor Michelson hit Will Powers with a 30-yard scoring strike. The Tigers, though, botched the extra point and their lead stayed at 13-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Princeton made another special teams lapse as Eric Fiore raced 53 yards on the return. Taking advantage of the good field position, Penn marched 45 yards in a drive that culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Billy Ragone to Ryan O’Malley. The Quakers converted the point after and took a 14-13 lead into halftime.

The Tigers regained momentum midway through the second quarter, producing a 73-yard scoring march. Michelson hit Roman Wilson with a 21-yard touchdown pass and then found Wilson in the end zone for a two-point conversion as the Tigers grabbed a 21-14 advantage.

Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like Princeton was on the verge of putting the game away as it marched to the Penn 23-yard line. But a Michelson pass was picked off in the end zone by former WW/P-S star Dave Twamley.

Minutes later, Michelson was picked off again with C.J. Mooney snagging a batted pass out of the air and racing 15 yards for a touchdown as Penn tied the game at 21-21.

After Princeton went three-and-out on its next possession, Penn took the lead 28-21 as Ragone ran three yards for a TD to culminate a 10-play, 53-yard drive.

The Tigers, though, didn’t fold as Michelson hit several big passes to get Princeton to the Penn six in the waning moments of the contest. But committing the final turnover of the day, Michelson lost the ball after getting sacked and Penn ran out the clock.

With Princeton playing at Yale (2-6 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on Saturday in the latest chapter of the storied rivalry between the schools, Surace believes his team will put the disappointment of the Penn game in the rear view mirror and summon up a big effort.

“I felt our guys played hard today; we made some unfortunate errors and it has got to get corrected,” said Surace.

“I think that we will get them ready; Yale is obviously another big game. Our coaches will come in competing and battling and our seniors will set an example that way and follow the coaches’ lead.”


GOOD RUN: Princeton University field hockey player Molly Goodman, left, holds her ground in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday against visiting Penn, senior Goodman and classmates Katie Reinprecht, Kat Sharkey, Amy Donovan, and Charlotte Krause went out with a bang in their final home appearance as the Tigers prevailed 7-0. The win lifted No. 2 Princeton to 16-1 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, giving the program its eighth straight league title. The Tigers will start their drive for another crown as they compete in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play at No. 12 Lafayette on November 6 in a play-in game with the first and second round games to take place this weekend. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the the second-ranked Princeton University field hockey team, its 7-0 win over visiting Penn last Saturday marked the final step in its cakewalk to the Ivy League title.

In producing a 7-0 league mark and winning the program’s eighth straight crown, the Tigers outscored their Ivy foes by a total of 45-1 this fall.

While the lopsided nature of the wins gave the title an anticlimactic feel, Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn admired how her players handled their Ivy business.

“It means everything to win the league outright; our path to the NCAA tournament is through the league,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team improved to 16-1 overall with the victory.

“We know that we can’t mess up in the league and the players recognize that. We don’t take any moment for granted; we look at each game as an opportunity to get better. We didn’t want to concede a goal; we want to play as clean as we can on both sides of the ball.”

In the game on Saturday, the program got to honor its decorated group of seniors which includes Katie Reinprecht, Kat Sharkey, Amy Donovan, Molly Goodman, and Charlotte Krause.

“They really, really have been such an outstanding group of young women,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“They have been great leaders on and off the field; I can’t do justice to them in a few words. They have been so special and selfless; they have had to redefine their role. They have done that in a graceful way and have helped propel the team.”

Sharkey rose to the occasion in her final appearance at Bedford Field, scoring four goals to increase her season total to 29.

“Sharkey did what she does best but she will tell you that she has one of the best, if not the best, midfield in the country behind her, helping to feed her the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, who also got three goals from sophomore star Allison Evans in the victory over the Quakers.

“All the strikers have benefitted; the midfield is really combining with the front of the field.”

Now the Tigers will get the chance to prove they are the best team in the country as they compete in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play at No. 12 Lafayette on November 6 in a play-in game with the first and second round games to take place this weekend.

“I think we are in a great spot on both sides of the ball; we have been achieving fluidity,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on her team’s NCAA prospects.

“We are getting players opportunities for space and time; creating spaces in the front that have troubled the top teams. We need to trust what we do and be ready to bring it.”

Princeton will be bringing it in the game against Patriot League champion Lafayette (16-1 overall, 6-0 Patriot) even though its spot in the tourney’s main draw is assured by its ranking and wins over such national powers Maryland, Duke, Wake Forest, Connecticut, Penn State, and Virginia.

“I think they have the lowest goals against average in the country; they are accustomed to winning,” said Holmes-Winn of the Leopards.

“They are No. 10 in the RPI; they are really good. Our team feels fortunate to play a team of that caliber in the play-in game. They are really pumped to play and looking at it as a win-win situation. It is an opportunity to go out against a quality opponent and get sharp for Saturday. We will throw everything at them like it is a first-round game.”


FOUR-SIGHT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Niveen Rasheed heads up the court in action last season. Senior forward Rasheed, the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2011-12, will be looking to end her stellar career by leading Princeton to a fourth straight league title. The Tigers tip off the upcoming season when they play at St. Joseph’s on November 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood were two of the key building blocks for a Princeton University women’s basketball program that has dominated the Ivy League over the last three winters.

The 6’3 Allgood controlled the paint, scoring 1,177 points and grabbing 802 rebounds in her career while the rangy 6’0 Edwards tallied 1,319 points and 152 three-pointers as the Tigers won three straight league titles, going 41-1 in Ivy play over that span.

The exit of the two stars to graduation this past June would seem to signal a rebuilding season for the Tigers, whose 2011-12 campaign ended with a tough 67-64 loss to Kansas State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

But with the return of senior forward Niveen Rasheed, last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year who has 1,134 career points, and classmate Lauren Polansky, the two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, Princeton is in good shape to make a run for a fourth straight league crown.

Coming off a season that saw the Tigers go 24-5 overall and 14-0 Ivy, becoming the first league team to be ranked in the Top 25 nationally at No. 24, Princeton was recently picked first in the 2012-13 Ivy Preseason Media Poll.

While Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is proud to have transformed her program into a force, she isn’t focusing on preseason accolades as she looks ahead to opening the 2012-13 season with a game at St. Joseph’s on November 11.

“As is always the case, it doesn’t matter where you start in the poll, it matters where you end up,” said Banghart, who is bringing a 95-50 overall record into her sixth year at the helm, having gone 74-13 the last three seasons.

“That said, I’m really proud of this Tiger program as we’ve worked tirelessly in the offseason and as a unit to continually earn the target on our back. This group has both pride and humility. We appreciate the respect, but we are driven by how far we still have to go to reach our lofty goals. It’s one day at a time for this team.”

Senior co-captain Rasheed, a 6’0 native of Danville, Calif., has proven to be one of the most driven players in Ivy history, starting from the moment she took the court for Princeton in 2009. Even though she was coming off a sophomore season  that ended early due to an ACL injury, Rasheed was at full speed from the opening tip last winter, averaging 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

Her classmate and co-captain Polansky has proven to be one of the most valuable point guards in recent Ivy history. The 5’8 Polansky, a resident of Mill Valley, Calif., has piled up 227 assists, 299 rebounds, and 161 steals in her Tiger career.

The Tigers also welcome back 6‘0 senior starter Kate Miller (5.9 points, 3.2 rebounds a game in 2011-12) and key reserves, 5’11 junior Nicole Hung (7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) and 6‘3 senior Megan Bowen (6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds).

The freshman class should give the Tigers depth and height with the quintet of Taylor Williams (6’3), Alex Wheatley (6’2), Annie Tarakchian (6’0), Michelle Miller (5’10), and Amanda Bernsten (5’8).

Banghart won’t have to wait long to see if the team has what it takes to compete for its lofty goals as it faces NCAA tournament teams Marist, Rutgers, and UCLA in November action.


TITLE DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer drives to the hoop in a game last winter. Senior standout Hummer, who passed the 1,000-point mark last season, will be looking to end his stellar career on a high note as the Tigers have their sights set on retaining the Ivy League crown. Princeton tips off its 2012-13 season by playing at Buffalo on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mitch Henderson isn’t coy in setting forth what he hopes to see from his Princeton University men’s basketball team this winter.

“The expectation is that we are supposed to win the league,” said Princeton head coach Henderson, who guided the Tigers to a 20-12 overall record and 10-4 in Ivy League play last winter in his debut season as the team finished third in the league and went on to make the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational.

“Every single year, we want to make sure that we are contending for the title. I think that the group that you are seeing right now really wants that shot. They know that it is about hard work on the floor and getting better so we define ourselves by those things everyday. Are we getting better, are we improving, are we making each other better, are we unselfish. Those guys are really taking those qualities to heart.”

With Princeton slated to tip off the 2012-13 season by playing at Buffalo on November 10, the Tigers are depending on getting some quality work from their trio of seniors, Ian Hummer (16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 2011-12), Brendan Connolly (5.7 points, 3.6 rebounds), and Mack Darrow (7.0 points, 3.6 rebounds).

“I know that Ian gets a lot of attention but he has made strides,” said Henderson of the 6’7, 225-pound Hummer, a two-time All-Ivy performer who comes into the season with 1,170 career points.

“He has really taken a role as a leader and he put in time in the weight room. He looks like he is ready to go; the same thing with Brendan Connolly. The seniors are doing what they are supposed to do, which is leading by example.”

The Tigers, who were chosen No. 1 in the 2012-13 Ivy Preseason Media Poll and got in some extra work this summer during a 10-day journey to Spain where they played four games against professional teams, are expecting junior forward Will Barrett to assume a larger role.

“Will wasn’t with us last year,” said Henderson of the 6’8, 197-pound Barrett. “He spent a year off working on and off the floor. He really made a lot of improvements. In Spain, he was a huge addition for us; he led us in rebounding. I think Will has made huge strides personally, both on and off the floor.”

Junior guard T.J. Bray, who made big strides last year when he averaged 7.2 points a game and had a team-high 119 assists, is currently bouncing back from injury.

“T.J. is going to be ready to go, we have been working him back into the live stuff,” said Henderson.

“He will be fine; like any really competitive guy, he is just chomping at the bit here to get going but we have got some time. I think you will see him early and we are building towards him being full speed by mid-November.”

As Bray gets up to speed, Henderson is trying some different options at guard as the Tigers look to fill the void left by the graduated Douglas Davis, the former Hun School star who ended his Princeton career with 1,550 points, the second most in program history.

“I like what we are seeing out of Chris Clement (0.5 points and 0.5 rebounds last year) and Denton Koon (5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds),” asserted Henderson.

“We are really asking those two guys to do something that is a little unique; they are both playing in the backcourt for the first time.”

In Henderson’s view, his trio of freshmen, 6‘3 guard Mike Washington, Jr., 6’ 8 forward Hans Brase, and 7’1 center Edo Lawrence, could do some good things this winter.

“Mike is a shooter; he is athletic and he is a bigger guard,” said Henderson. “He has a long way to go in understanding how hard you have you play in college. I really like where Mike is at the moment. I feel comfortable with the guys that are in front of him too so I think Mike is going to have his work cut out for him but he is ready for that challenge. Hans Brase is really playing well. I think Hans is going to help us immediately, especially on the boards. Edo Lawrence is playing behind two senior centers and a sophomore center but again he is another guy who has really worked hard on just improving his habits here. I really like the look of the class as it adds to the rest of the group.”

The Tigers will get exposed to some different looks in a non-conference slate that includes such formidable foes as Rutgers, Syracuse, Kent State, Drexel, Rider, and Bucknell.

“I think it is a very challenging schedule for us; each of those teams are a little bit different,” said Henderson.

“We have teams that are perimeter-oriented and then teams who have a really good big guy like Bucknell. It is a challenge and that’s what we want. We want to be playing our best basketball in January.”


While losing twice in the season-opening Ivy Shootout didn’t hurt the Princeton University men’s hockey team as the games didn’t count in the ECAC Hockey standings, it gave the Tigers a taste of what they will be facing this winter.

“It is an indicator of how the league is going to be this year,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier.

“Game in, game out, it is going to be a dogfight. There is a lot of parity and little margin for error.”

In falling 2-1 to host Brown on October 26 and 3-2 to Yale a day later in the event, Princeton made some key errors.

“Both games were pretty similar,” recalled Prier. “We made some poor decisions on penalties. We had some lapses and our foes cashed in on some opportunities.”

The Tigers did see Tyler Maugeri cash in as the sophomore forward notched a goal in each game.

“Tyler had a couple of goals; it is nice to see that,” said Prier, who also got a goal from Andrew Calof in the defeat to Yale. “We know guys like Calof and [Jack] Berger are going to score; it is good to see
others contributing. We know we have the weapons up front; we have a nucleus of guys who can put it in.”

Prier liked the work he got from his guys along the blue line and from senior goalie Mike Condon.

“We limited opportunities defensively better than we did last year so that was encouraging,” added Prier.

“Mike did what he had to. He had a .926 save percentage in the first game; you are going to come out with a win most of the time with that save percentage. I was pleased with how he played.”

The Tigers were hoping to have the opportunity to get some extra work in this week during fall break but Hurricane Sandy changed those plans.

“Originally we had planned for this to be a big week for work,” said Prier, whose team didn’t have any games scheduled last weekend.

“We had a lot of bumps and bruises so we let the guys get away and go home and heal up. We will come in on Saturday and Sunday ready to go and work hard.”

With Princeton opening ECACH play this weekend by hosting fourth-ranked Cornell (3-0-1 overall, 1-0-1 ECACH) on November 9 and Colgate (4-4-1 overall, 0-1-1 ECACH) the next day, Prier knows his team faces some hard challenges.

“The season is short so this is important; we definitely need to start well in the league,” said Prier.

“We are looking at two tough league opponents just like last weekend. We have learned from penalties and lapses in mental focus. We have some positives to build on; we had the puck a lot.”

In Prier’s view, doing more with that puck possession is critical as the Tigers look to produce a positive start in league play.

“We have to do better in front of the goal,” noted Prier. “We are going to work on the power play quite a bit; we have to make that a threat. With the parity in the league, special teams can make the difference. You look at the box scores and you see where the team that went 2-of-5 on the power play was the team that came out on top. We have the clientele to have a strong power play and hopefully we can do that.”


The wide swath that Hurricane Sandy cut through the Garden State hit the sporting world as the superstorm wreaked havoc on the local high school athletics schedule just as the fall season was headed into playoff time.

The storm wiped out all games scheduled last week involving Mercer County high school teams.

As a result, schools will be scrambling to wrap up fall play over the next few weeks in order to clear the decks for the upcoming winter season.

At Princeton High, the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams were slated to start state play with a doubleheader on November 6. The third-seeded boys’ team was facing No. 14 Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III tourney with the second-seeded girls’ squad hosting No. 15 Lawrence in a first-round contest. The dates for the sectional quarterfinals have yet to be determined.

After topping Middletown South 2-0 in the opening round of the sectional, the sixth-seeded PHS field hockey team will be facing No. 3 Freehold in the next round. That game could take place on November 8 although that hasn’t been finally confirmed.

On the gridiron, PHS was slated to wrap up regular season play at Pemberton on November 3. That game has been postponed to November 10 with the Little Tigers now set to play their NJSIAA consolation game on November 17 against an opponent to be named.

The PHS cross country teams will now compete in the sectional meet on November 10.

The Princeton Day School field hockey team is still alive in the state Prep B tournament and the top-seeded Panthers are slated to host Newark Academy on November 8 in the semifinals. The title game will place over the weekend.

While the Hun School field hockey team is also alive in the state Prep A tourney, that competition may end up being cancelled due to schedule conflicts.

In addition, Raider teams were scheduled to host Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4 in football, field hockey, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, and girls’ tennis. Those games may also not take place.

FINAL SALVO: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Samantha Asch slams a backhand in action earlier this fall. Senior star and Wake Forest-bound Asch ended her PDS career on a high note, taking the title at first singles to help the Panthers win the state Prep B team championship. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team won the team title at the Mercer County Tournament but faltered at the state Prep B tourney.

After falling short of a title repeat by taking fifth in the county tournament in early October, PDS set its sights on ending the season on a high note at this year’s Prep B competition.

“We talked about the idea that we won the counties last year but then lost in the Prep B and wouldn’t it be nice if we flip-flopped it,” said PDS head coach Ed Tseng.

The Panthers certainly got off to a nice start at the Prep B tournament on October 21 as they advanced to the finals in all five flights of the competition.

While Tseng was happy with his team’s opening day performance, he knew it didn’t clinch anything.

“The important thing in the counties and prep is getting everyone through the first day,” said Tseng, whose team was locked in a two-horse race for the title with Morristown-Beard. “Nothing is a guarantee and we were not overconfident.”

But playing confident tennis, PDS outdueled Mo-Beard in the championship round on October 25, prevailing at first and second singles together with first doubles to pull out the title.

The pivotal win came at first doubles where the pair of Charlotte Zaininger and Mary Atkeson fine-tuned their partnership to win their flight.

“It is interesting, they are two singles players at doubles,” said Tseng.

“Charlotte is good on the baseline; Mary’s strength is at net. We wanted Mary going to the net as much as possible; we wanted them to dictate and be aggressive.”

Freshman Renee Karchere-Sun showed her aggressiveness as she posted a straight-set win in taking the title at second singles.

“I was very pleased with her,” said Tseng. “At the counties she had a good start but a rough match in the semis when we went indoors. She had a challenge in the finals in Prep B and stayed focused.”

Senior star Samantha Asch displayed her usual laser-like focus, ending her remarkable high school career with a straight-set win in the first singles title match.

“She had a love match but the score doesn’t indicate how close it was,” said Tseng. “She has the experience and wins the big points.”

The Wake Forest-bound Asch has given the Panthers a lot more than big wins in her PDS career.

“The thing I will remember is the leadership she brings to the younger players,” said Tseng of Asch, who won four individual county titles,
taking the crown at second
singles as a freshman and then winning at first singles the next three years.

“For her senior project, she organized a tennis charity event for Eden and raised more than $10,000. Helping the community like that is more important than all of her wins. She has great work ethic. She doesn’t want to miss a day. She loves it and she is putting in the time; that is a pretty great combination.”

For Tseng, making it two titles in two years at the helm of the PDS program left him with a great feeling.

“Whether it is the county or prep tournament, there are a lot of good teams and it is an honor to win a title,” said Tseng.

“It is exciting for me as a coach to help the players but it was even better to see their excitement at winning. As soon as they won, they were calling their parents who weren’t there. It was priceless, they will always have that experience.”


November 6, 2012

SEEING RED: Princeton University sophomore quarterback Connor Michelson makes a handoff in recent action. Last Saturday, Michelson had a career day at Cornell, hitting on 29-of-35 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown. Michelson’s heroics weren’t enough, though, as Princeton fell 37-35 to the Big Red. The defeat left the Tigers at 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Ivy play, dropping them into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Harvard (5-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy) and Penn (3-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy). Princeton hosts Penn this Saturday.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of the Princeton University football team’s miraculous fourth quarter comeback in its recent win over Harvard, Bob Surace sounded a note of caution.

As he reflected on the rally which saw the Tigers overcome a 34-10 deficit to pull out a 39-34 win in the October 20 contest, Princeton head coach Surace said that his squad needed to play error-free football and be extra sharp on the fundamentals in order to stay atop the Ivy League race.

Last Saturday at Cornell, the Tigers failed to follow that blueprint by making four turnovers and ended up paying the price as they fell 37-35 to the Big Red before a crowd of 4,420 at Schoellkopf Field.

The defeat left Princeton at 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Ivy play, dropping it into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Harvard (5-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy) and Penn (3-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy).

While Surace was pleased with the intensity his players showed, he acknowledged that it wasn’t their sharpest performance.

“Our effort was very good throughout the game,” said Surace. “The league is pretty balanced and you see these type of games every week. It comes down to small details and they were a little better on the small details and that haunted us. We have to be a touch cleaner. We executed extremely well on 75 of 84 plays.”

The Cornell passing attack, on the other hand, executed well all day long as quarterback Jeff Mathews hit on 35-of-51 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns with Grant Gellatly making 12 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown and Luke Tasker contributing 10 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

“For the second week in a row, we faced a terrific QB combined with some great receivers,” said Surace, whose team battled Harvard quarterback Colton Chapple and tight end Kyle Juszczyk a week earlier.

“We knew they had that ability. The QB is in the top 5 in passing in the nation and their back-up threw for 500 yards in a game when he had to start. We blitzed, we played different formations, we tried to give Mathews different looks but he has started 26 games and he has seen everything. He is like an early version of Peyton Manning and it is hard to beat him on different looks.”

Early on, it didn’t look like the game was going to become a wild shootout, with neither team scoring in the first quarter.

The fireworks started in the second quarter when Roman Wilson scored on a three-yard run as Princeton took a 7-0 lead with 11:19 left in the first half to culminate an 11-play, 92-yard scoring march.

Mathews, though, started to find the range at that point. The junior hit Tasker for a 54-yard touchdown pass to make it a 7-7- game. Minutes later, he found Gellatly for a 76-yard scoring strike as the Big Red forged ahead 14-7.

The Tigers answered back with a 75-yard drive that ended with quarterback Quinn Epperley running two yards for a touchdown as Princeton knotted the game at 14-14 heading into halftime.

Things really heated up in the third quarter as the teams combined for 34 points in the period. The outburst started when Mathews hit Tasker for an eight-yard touchdown pass to give Cornell a 21-14 lead.

Princeton tied the contest at 21-21 after Epperly ran six yards for his second touchdown of the afternoon.

Mathews then hit Luke Hagy for a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it a 28-21 game with 8:26 left in the quarter. Less than a minute later, the Tigers drew even at 28-28 as Connor Michelson hit Wilson on a 72-yard touchdown pass.

The Big Red got the last points of the quarter as Silas Nacita ran two yards for a touchdown. The kick failed and Cornell led 34-28 as the teams headed into the final 15 minutes of regulation.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Princeton finally regained the lead as Epperly found tight end Mark Hayes for a six-yard TD pass. Nolan Bieck’s kick was good and the Tigers went ahead 35-34.

Princeton stopped Cornell on downs on the next possession and took over on its own 23. The Tigers picked up three first downs as they looked to get an insurance score. But the Big Red made a clutch play on defense, forcing a Dre Nelson fumble and taking possession with 2:57 left in the quarter. The sizzling Mathews hit big passes to Tasker and Gallatly to get Cornell to the Princeton 11. With 50 seconds left, John Wells hit a 23-yard field goal to put Cornell ahead 37-35.

The Tigers made one last gasp but a Michelson pass was intercepted to seal the Cornell win.

In Surace’s view, the combination of big plays from Cornell and the miscues by Princeton led to the Tigers‘ first loss in league play this fall.

“They made some extraordinary plays, the turnovers hurt us,” said Surace. “We started the second half, saying that we needed to be plus two in turnovers and we ended up minus four.”

Princeton quarterback Connor Michelson made his share of extraordinary plays in a losing cause as he had a career game, hitting on 29-of-35 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown.

“Connor threw the ball extremely well; we had three drops but he still29-for-35,” said Surace,

“His accuracy was terrific; his decision-making was great. It was probably the best we have blocked on the line since I have been here; we protected him well and kept him clean.”

As Princeton girds for a pivotal clash with visiting Penn this Saturday, Surace knows his team must block out any bad feelings from the loss on Saturday.

“Everybody gets a little better this time of year,” said Surace. “We can’t mope or let disappointment linger. We need to have the exactness from play to play.”

Princeton will have to play a little better in order to overcome a tough Quaker team that features battle-tested senior quarterback Billy Ragone and a rugged defense.

“It is always a large game, you have to match up physically,” said Surace, reflecting on the series which has seen Penn win the last five meetings.

“They make plays and they are well coached. We have a lot of respect for them. When I came into the league, I looked at programs, there is no honor code, you see things you want to copy. I admire how they operate and how they are fundamentally sound and play the game the right way.”


UP IN THE AIR: Princeton University men’s soccer player ­Cameron Porter (in white) goes to the air to battle a trio of foes for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, the Tigers couldn’t find the back of the net as they fell 1-0 at Cornell. The loss left Princeton at 6-6-2 overall and 2-1-2 Ivy League, trailing Brown (12-1-2 overall, 4-0-1 Ivy), Cornell (13-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy), and Dartmouth (8-6 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in the Ivy title race with two league games remaining. The Tigers are slated to host Penn (2-12 overall, 0-5 Ivy) on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s soccer team prepared for a pivotal Ivy League contest at Cornell, the Tigers faced a series of challenges.

In addition to dealing with the stress of midterm week, Princeton was ailing as it brought a 2-0-2 Ivy record into its clash with a Big Red team that was 3-1 in league action.

“It wasn’t easy, not only with midterms but the guys’ bodies seemed to be hitting a wall,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow.

“It sounded like an infirmary on the trip up and back from Cornell with the guys coughing. Matt Sanner was not able to train after Tuesday because of a toe injury. Joe Saitta was sick and in and out of training. Chris Benedict tweaked his back.”

Shaking off fatigue, illness, and injury, the Tigers battled Cornell tooth and nail. The team were deadlocked in a scoreless tie at halftime and Princeton outshot the Big Red 8-4 in the second half. But Daniel Haber found the back of the net for Cornell early in the second half for the only score of the contest as the Tigers fell 1-0.

“We played well, the first half was even and we had more shots than they did in the second half,” said Barlow.

“They have a really dangerous forward and he got two or three chances and was able to score one. He made the most of his opportunities.”

Princeton, on the other hand, didn’t cash in on its opportunities. “We had a lot of the play in the second half,” said Barlow, whose team is 6-6-2 overall and now trails Brown (12-1-2 overall, 4-0-1 Ivy), Cornell (13-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (8-6 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in the Ivy title race with two league games remaining.

“We had enough chances to score. We just haven’t been sharp in the final third; going back to Adelphi (a 1-0 loss on October 17) and even Harvard (a 2-1 overtime win on October 20) where we pulled the game out on a goal off a long throw.”

The team’s lack of offensive punch has been particularly disappointing given how well Princeton has played defensively.

“The guys on the back line have been terrific,” said Barlow, whose team has a goals against average of 1.15 and had yielded just four goals in its five league contests.

“Mark Linnville is the leader. Billy McGuinness has been so good all year. Seth MacMillan has been solid in goal; Saitta and Benedict are also solid. Last year,  we scored a lot of goals but gave up too many. We wanted to get the back line really secure and we have done that but we are not making that last play in front of the goal.”

With Princeton’s Ivy title hopes hanging by a thread, Barlow is looking for his team to make some big plays as it hosts Penn (2-12 overall, 0-5 Ivy) on November 3 before playing at Yale (4-7-4 overall, 1-2-2 Ivy) on November 10 in the regular season finale.

“We just have to focus on winning our own games,” said Barlow, noting that the Tigers needs to win both of their remaining games and get help in several other league matchups to win the title.

“We are frustrated. We knew that Saturday could be the game that decided the title and we didn’t get it done.”


Jeff Kampersal knew that his Princeton University women’s hockey team was in for some trouble when it took five penalties in the first period last Friday as it hosted Dartmouth.

“We want to pride ourselves on being a disciplined team and we didn’t do a good job of that today,” said Princeton head coach Kampersal.

“Dartmouth’s power play is potent, to say the least, they are a very good group. They are well coached and to give them five power plays in the first period is ridiculous.”

The Tigers weathered the storm, though, surrendering only one goal in the first period. After giving up an even strength goal to fall behind 2-0 midway through the second period, Princeton got a goal from senior Alex Kinney to halve Dartmouth’s lead. But the Big Green cashed in on a power play late in the period to regain their two-goal lead on the way to a 3-1 victory.

Kampersal did see some positive signs when his squad wasn’t killing penalties.

“I thought 5-on-5, we did a good job,” said Kampersal. “We played a sound, solid game.”

Princeton got a solid game in the loss from gritty senior forward and assistant captain Kelly Cooke.

“I thought Cookie worked real hard; she was all over today,” said Kampersal of Cooke, who scored Princeton’s lone goal on Saturday as the Tigers suffered a dispiriting 9-1 loss to Harvard.

“She had a lot of energy; she was good on the penalty kill. She had a nice 2-on-1 on the kill. I thought she was good at both ends of the rink.”

With Princeton, now 2-2 overall and 0-2 in ECAC Hockey action, the Tigers will have to be a lot better at both ends of the rink next weekend as they play at second-ranked Cornell (4-1 overall, 2-0 ECACH) on November 2 and at Colgate (2-6 overall, 0-2 ECACH) on November 3.

“It doesn’t take a perfect game, it takes a smart, disciplined effort,” said Kampersal.

“Our goal is to stay under four penalties each game. When we stay under four penalties, get a certain percentage on the power play, and play good, tough defense, we have a good chance of winning.”


SPECIAL BOND: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Julie Bond heads to the finish line in a meet earlier this fall. Last Friday, sophomore Bond placed 11th at the Mercer County Championships at Washington Crossing State Park. Bond’s superb effort helped PHS take third in the team standings.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Julie Bond was content to assume a supporting role last fall as a freshman on the Princeton High girls’ cross country team.

“We could really let the seniors take the wheel because Elyssa [Gensib] and Jenna [Cody] were so good,” said sophomore Bond.

Coming into 2102, Bond sensed that she would be in the driver’s seat. “This year there is more responsibility so I am trying to concentrate more which is what I saw Elyssa do,” said Bond.

“I am working harder in practice this year and I am more focused on my academics.

Last Friday at the Mercer County Championships, Bond’s hard work paid dividends as she set the pace for PHS, taking 11th individually, covering the 5k course at Washington Crossing Park in 20:08.

Bond’s big day helped the Little Tigers place third in the team standings at the meet behind champion WW/P-S and runner-up Robbinsville. Senior Amelia Whaley was PHS’ next finisher, placing 18th in 20:29, followed by freshman Lou Mialhe in 20th in 20:37 and sophomore Mary Sutton, the 34th-place finisher in 21:07.

For Bond, the race was an important step forward. “I was trying for my personal record and I think I might have gotten it by a little,” said Bond, who ran a 20:18 earlier this season in taking 10th at the Passaic Coaches Invitational.

Entering the county meet, Bond figured she would be joined at front of the PHS pack by senior star Whaley.

“We were looking to Amelia as our top runner today but she got injured,” said Bond of Whaley, who was in the top 10 for much of the race but struggled down the stretch and stumbled across the line.

“She has been racing so great in practice; she has amazing workouts. She is the most motivational person I know. Her freshman team lost states by two points and she wrote two points on her locker so she could look at it everyday.”

With PHS starting state competition with the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional this Saturday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, Bond is feeling some special motivation.

“I am looking forward to the sectional,” said Bond. “We lost to Middletown South before and I think they are going to be our biggest competition. We want to make the group meet and that gives us motivation.”


Luke Bozich has hit some bumps in the road this fall in his senior campaign with the Princeton High boys’ cross country team.

In a race in late September at Mercer County Park, Bozich slipped in a rut and sprained his ankle. After returning to action weeks later, Bozich got hurt again when he tripped over a log on the course at Holmdel.

While such bad luck could be discouraging, Bozich has been unfazed. “I have been injured a lot through cross country in high school; I have been able to deal with it,” said Bozich. “Plus, I used to get injured all the time running when I was a kid.”

Last Friday at the Mercer County Championships at Washington Crossing Park, a healthy Bozich had a great time, placing seventh in the race to help PHS take second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S.

Following Bozich for the Little Tigers was junior Kevin Vahdat in eighth, sophomore Jacob Rist in 11th, senior Matt Wong in 34th, and junior Conor Donahue in 35th.

For Bozich, who covered the 5k course in 16:22, the top 10 finish was something to savor.

“This is the first time I have ever run varsity here; it feels great,” said Bozich, noting that his best time in the course was 19:07.

“I ran varsity at sectional my sophomore year but I fell apart last year. I came back for my senior year and I was ready to go.”

Running with teammate Vahdat at the front of the PHS pack helped Bozich come through in the county meet.

“Kevin took the lead towards the second loop of the woods and up the last hill so I tried my best to keep up with him,” recalled Bozich of Vahdat who clocked a 16:24 time.

Displaying a strong finishing kick, Bozich passed Vahdat in the last few yards of the race.

“I was mad so I went for it,” said Bozich. “I have asthma so during the race if I can’t breathe as much it gets me irritated. I am hoping to do my best and it hinders me.”

While Bozich was proud of his seventh place finish, the main goal is to give his all for the squad. “I never really shoot for a time,” explained Bozich. “I just try and go out there and do the best race I can for the team and wherever that puts me; that is fine.”

Bozich draws strength from the group dynamic surrounding the PHS squad. “I feel like as a team, we are more unified,” said Bozich.

“There is something about us when everybody is in the huddle before the race. Everyone gets going and everyone is really happy and I feel like that helps a lot.”

With the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional meet slated for this Saturday at  Thompson Park in Jamesburg, Bozich and his teammates are primed for another big effort.

“We are just going to go out and do our best,” said Bozich. “We are going to save all that power for the states and whatever may come after that.”


Even though his Princeton High football team was mired in a slump, Joe Gargione brought high hopes into its game at Trenton Central last Saturday.

“I told the kids that this was a good opportunity to snap a 6-game losing streak and start a 3-game winning streak,” said PHS head coach Gargione.

Giving Gargione additional optimism was the fact that the Little Tigers had scored 18 unanswered points in the second half of their 35-18 loss a week earlier to Burlington Township.

But PHS got out of the gate slowly against the Tornadoes, falling behind 20-0 by halftime.

“We had pretty good practices last week but we started out slow,” lamented Gargione. “It wasn’t that we were sluggish, we just weren’t getting it done and they put up 20 points quickly.”

The Little Tigers valiantly tried to get it done after intermission. “We started the second half with a pooch kick and Javon [Pannell] pounced on it,” said Gargione. “That gave us momentum. We got down there and had two chances to score but we didn’t convert.”

The Little Tigers did convert later in the quarter as Zack DiGregorio hit Christian Giles on an 8-yard scoring pass. But that was the end of the scoring as Trenton won 20-7 and PHS dropped to 1-7.

“We scored in the second half and they didn’t,” said Gargione, noting that Giles’ TD was his first ever in varsity competition for the senior receiver.

“I told the kids afterward that there are four quarters in football; maybe you can’t win them all but we can’t dig that kind of hole, You can’t put yourself in that position and expect to win.”

With his team playing at winless Pemberton on November 3 in the regular season finale, Gargione hasn’t lost hope.

“We can have a two-game winning streak and match our win total from last year,” said Gargione.

“They may be 0-8 but then have some big kids, a running back who is pretty good and some good receivers. It is going to be tough; we have to get to the QB to stop their receivers.”


MID POINT: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Kate Kerr dribbles the ball upfield in action earlier this fall. Last week, senior midfielder Kerr contributed an assist as second-seeded PHS edged 10th-seeded Ewing 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament. PHS went on to lose to eventual champion Pennington in the semifinals on penalty kicks. The Little Tigers, now 12-3 are seeded No. 2 in the upcoming Group 3 Central Jersey sectional and are slated to play No. 15 Lawrence in the first round of the tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Kerr was primed to assume a lot of responsibility this fall for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team.

“I wanted to be in the center because I thought that is where I could be the most help for my teammates,” said senior midfielder Kerr.

“I think the middle is the engine of the team; I need to make sure I am looking for both sides. I need to make sure I am helping the team making runs, keeping the momentum and going forward. I also need to instruct our defense and make sure that everyone sees what’s going on and where they should be marking.”

Last week, as second-seeded PHS hosted 10th-seeded Ewing in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament, Kerr displayed her full repertoire of skills.

The enterprising Kerr helped key a strong defensive effort as the Little Tigers stifled Ewing and then assisted on the game’s lone goal as PHS posted a 1-0 victory on October 23.

In reflecting on setting up Ally Rogers’ decisive strike, Kerr said it as a matter of applying a training routine.

“We do this a lot in practice, we try to go to the endline and then cut the ball back,” said Kerr.

“We make sure that our runs are coming from the center so that is what I was trying to do. I turned on my player and cut it back so someone could easily run onto it.”

In producing its superb run this fall, PHS has developed a special unity. “I think we all just have really great teamwork; we all enjoy playing with each other,” said Kerr, who provided more good work as PHS fell to eventual champion Pennington on penalty kicks in the MCT semis.

“In our practices, we have all been focused on playing as a team and supporting each other well. We all know our positions well and we make sure that we are always there for each other.”

Even Kerr is surprised at how well PHS has done this fall as it has gone 12-3 and is seeded No. 2 in the upcoming Group 3 Central Jersey sectional.

“At the beginning of the season, we didn’t expect to do this well,” said Kerr. “Not having expectations, we all worked hard, had fun and we ended up coming up with a better record than we expected.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand, for his part, views the team’s success as the product of daily effort.

“It has been a steady progression; this team works hard and really wants to learn,” said Hand.

“We have developed a vocabulary, a way to talk about what we are trying to do. I’d say we are certainly playing our best soccer right now. The Notre Dame game (a 5-2 win on October 16) was by far the best of the season; we have had substantial chunks of other games that were just what we were looking for.”

Kerr has given Hand what he is looking for in the center of the field. “She never stops,” said Hand of Kerr.

“If you are working as hard defensively as she is, it is a huge challenge to shift gears and instantly compose yourself and get your eyes up and find the next target. She has just gotten better and better at that throughout the year.”

Hand believes his team can end the year with a good postseason run. “I have a lot of confidence in the intensity that we show and with the presence of mind that we have when we win the ball,” said Hand, whose team is slated to play No. 15 Lawrence in the opening round of the state tourney. “I like our basic desire to do what is necessary to win.”

Kerr, for her part, is having a ball as she comes down the homestretch of her PHS career.

“Right now I am just trying to enjoy it,” said Kerr. “Being a senior, I am really, really happy that we are doing so well. I want to end on a really strong note.”


SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton High field hockey star Sydney Watts clears the ball in 2011 action. Last Wednesday, senior star Watts helped sixth-seeded PHS top No. 11 Middletown South 2-0 in the opening round of the Group 3 North 2 sectional. It was PHS’s first win in the state tournament since the 1990s. The Little Tigers, now 14-4-1, are slated to play at No. 3 Freehold in the sectional quarterfinals.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sydney Watts has played a big role in helping to transform the Princeton High field hockey team into one of the top teams in the area.

In Watt’s sophomore year in 2010, PHS dipped to 6-10-1 after a 9-8 campaign the season before. Last fall, with Watts emerging as a top player with her defensive prowess and stick skills, the Little Tigers improved to 10-6.

This season, PHS started 11-2 and earned the No. 2 seed in the Mercer County Tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals where they dropped a 1-0 nailbiter in overtime to defending champion Lawrenceville.

Despite this improvement, the Little Tigers have not been able to get over the hump in the state tournament, losing three straight years in the first round after not having been in the tourney for the previous decade.

Last Wednesday, as the sixth-seeded Little Tigers prepared to face No. 11 Middletown South in the opening round of the Group 3 North 2 sectional, Watts wasn’t ready to see her career come to an end.

“I was just hoping this wasn’t going to be my last game,” said Watts. “I was trying as hard as I could to get this win and play for these girls because they have put in so much effort this year.”

Keying the defense and making some sharp passes to get the PHS attack going, Watts helped PHS break through with a sweet 2-0 victory.

“I am really excited that we won this game,” said Watts. “We have been working on this as long as I can remember. We have only made it to the first round ever in my high school career so this was a big win for us.”

In Watts’ view, the lessons learned by PHS from past state appearances combined with its skill made the difference in the win over Middletown South.

“I think it was definitely the experience but I also think this is the most talented team that Princeton High has seen in a long time and I am really proud of these girls,” said Watts.

With the teams deadlocked in a scoreless tie at halftime, PHS displayed its offensive talent in the second half, controlling possession and taking advantage of its chances in the circle.

“We really picked it up in the second half,” said Watts. “I think our passing game really improved; we connected on more balls. We realized what we needed to fix from the beginning and we really picked it up.”

The Little Tigers’ work on the backline helped trigger the offense. “Our defense is a big part of our team; we try and support as much from the back and work forward,” said Watts.

“We really start the game in the back of the field and everyone really plays defense, even the forwards. I think an issue in the beginning of the season was connecting from the defense to the offense with our passes. Now we are able to connect and we are able to get the ball up the field really fast.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson was more relieved than anything else in the wake of the win which lifted her team to a 14-4-1 record.

“I feel like I can finally breathe; I feel like I really haven’t been able to breathe in the state tournament over the last four years,” said a grinning Serverson.

“We are finally at that point where we made it past that first step. I think it is huge in terms of building our confidence and in general, for the program, it is a statement.”

In order to advance, PHS had to step up in the second half. “We needed to tighten things up, we just weren’t moving the ball well,” said Serverson, who got goals from Emilia Lopez-Ona and Kelly Dredger in the victory with Lucy Herring and Campbell McDonald picking up assists.

“We weren’t passing soon enough. I think that once people realized that we had a chance to win this game, they realized that they had to buckle down and do the fundamentals well.”

Serverson knows she will get fundamentally sound play from her defensive unit, led by Watts and sophomore star Julia DiTosto.

“They are always pretty tight down there; they do a great job of holding the fort,” asserted Serverson.

“I never have any complaints about them. They are steady and consistent; thank goodness we have them to rely on.”

With PHS slated to play at No. 3 Freehold in the sectional quarterfinals, Serverson knows her team needs to put an even greater emphasis on ball movement in order to prevail.

“I think we need to work on an even quicker, faster passing game,” said Serverson. “We need to tighten everything up. This team hasn’t played at that level yet. Hopefully, they will respond well.”

Watts, for her part, is confident that PHS will raise the level of its play in the clash against Freehold.

“I think we were very dangerous in the MCT; we just couldn’t come up with a win against Lawrenceville,” said Watts.

“In the state bracket as a No. 6 seed, we have a pretty big role. We still have to make a name for ourselves.”


IN HIS GRASP: Hun School football player Abdul-Malik Majeed corrals a ball carrier in recent action. Last Saturday at Peddie, senior star Majeed scored on a 43-yard pass play in the waning seconds to give Hun a 21-14 lead. The Falcons, though, responded by scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion in the waning seconds to pull out a 22-21 win. The Raiders, now 3-3, wrap up their season by hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Two weekends ago, the Hun School football team trailed Lawrenceville 21-0 at halftime only to rally for a 35-21 victory.

Last Saturday, Hun trailed Peddie 14-7 at halftime but was undaunted as it displayed resilience for a second week in a row.

The Raiders tied the game at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter as Hun senior Chris Cardinali bulled towards the end zone and classmate Quashae Hendryx alertly fell on his fumble.

Peddie took the ensuing kickoff and marched all the way to the Hun 10-yard-line. The Raiders, though, held the fort as they blocked a field goal attempt and took over on their own 16.

With Hun quarterback Blake Searfoss coming up with some clutch pass completions, Hun marched to the Peddie 43. Searfoss then hit Abdul-Malik Majeed across the middle in a slant pattern and the senior running back raced all the way to the end zone as Hun took a 21-14 lead with 28 seconds left in regulation.

Hun head coach Dave Dudeck was impressed with the resolve he saw from his squad.

“I thought that our kids were really courageous,” said Dudeck. “We were down again and things looked bad. We had enough courage to come back and stick one in with 28 seconds to go and make the PAT and keep on fighting.”

Unfortunately for the Raiders, Peddie didn’t stop battling as quarterback Dominic Borelli ran 14 yards and then hit a 42-yard pass play to Ben Pagan to get the Falcons to the Hun one-yard line with five seconds left. After an incomplete pass, Borelli raced into the end zone to make it a 21-20 game. He then put the final nail into the coffin as he bolted into the end zone for a two-point conversion to give Peddie a 22-21 win.

“My hat is off to Peddie,” said a subdued Dudeck. “They didn’t give up; they kept on pushing and they kept on playing to the end. Even when we went ahead with 28 seconds left, they drive the length of the field and score a touchdown and not only score a TD but get the extra two.”

Over the course of the afternoon, Hun opened the door to Peddie with some sloppy play.

“If I was to point to one thing today that I felt really hurt us; it was the number of penalties we had,” lamented Dudeck, whose team dropped to 3-3 with the defeat.

“All day long, from the beginning of the game to the end, we kept on giving Peddie chances and they took advantage of them. We kept on shooting ourselves in the foot.”

With his team lacking the depth of past years, Dudeck knows that there is little margin for error this fall.

“The other important thing is all year we talked about the type of team we are, that we don’t have enough talent to just show up,” said Dudeck.

“We have to play hard and finish. I think that today was an example where we didn’t finish.”

The Raiders will be looking to finish the fall on a high note as they host Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4 in the season finale.

“Our kids always play with confidence; they never got down,” said Dudeck. “They hung in there for the whole time. They felt that they were going to win the game. We went up; we just didn’t close the deal.”