October 10, 2012

SCORING PUNCH: Princeton University field hockey star Kat Sharkey prepares to shoot the ball in recent action. Senior forward Sharkey is the leading scorer in the nation with 47 points on 21 goals and five assists. Last Sunday, she chipped in a goal as the third-ranked Tigers beat American University 2-0 to improve to 10-1. In upcoming action, Princeton, 3-0 in Ivy League play, hosts Brown (3-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on October 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Kat Sharkey was disappointed when she didn’t make the U.S. Olympic field hockey team for the London Games after spending a year training with the national program, she wasn’t about to let that experience go to waste in getting ready for her final season with Princeton University team.

“Once I was released from training in California, I went home and really  focused in on preseason and what I needed to do to be back at 100 percent mentally and physically for this team,” said Sharkey, a senior forward and tri-captain from Moosic, Pa.

“I think taking the year off made me even more excited to come back here and I really missed the team last year and it is just amazing to be back with everyone.”

For Sharkey, being immersed in the game for a year with the national team has helped raise the level of her play.

“I think as a forward, I really benefitted from the training in California with the national team coaches and playing internationally,” added Sharkey, who was joined in San Diego by Princeton teammates Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia.

“You really have to be pretty on with your shots and deflections to get that goal at the international level so I think I definitely learned through all that training. I think I have brought what I learned back here to Princeton and I look to continue to improve my attack every day.”

So far, Sharkey has been on with her shot, leading the nation in goals and points per game through Princeton’s first 10 games with 45 points on 20 goals and five assists.

Last Sunday, Sharkey added to that total, scoring an insurance goal as third-ranked Princeton topped American University 2-0 at Bedford Field to improve to 10-1 overall.

“I actually felt like I had a lot of time on that play,” said Sharkey, reflecting on her goal which came with 11:32 remaining in the contest.

“I had mis-hit some reverse shots in the first half, a few went over the cage and a few went wide. So I really wanted to focus in and take my time on the shot and place it where I needed to place it in the cage and get it by the American goalie.”

With the game knotted at 0-0 at intermission even though Princeton had outshot the Eagles 9-1, Sharkey believed that the Tigers would break through which they did when sophomore Allison Evans scored five minutes into the second half.

“It was definitely frustrating given the amount of opportunities that we had and to enter the halftime not having a goal,” said Sharkey.

“But I was confident in our attack. I knew that we were eventually going to put one away and we just had to keep on pushing in that second half and I knew we would get one. A 1-0 lead is not enough for us to hang on to so we definitely wanted that security goal. It was really nice; it took some pressure off when we did.”

Looking to avoid a letdown after a 3-2 win over No. 4 Maryland earlier in the week, Princeton knew that American would provide a stern test.

“We try to improve every single game, no matter who our opponent is,” said Sharkey.

“We give it our all. I give a lot of credit to American, they are a strong team defensively and they had a lot of dangerous forwards. They gave us a tough game today and I am happy we were able to come out with the win.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, for her part, was happy to see her team survive the challenge posed by American.

“I was really pleased with how we moved the ball and I think we picked the right moments to attack; we were patient,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team outshot American 22-2 on the day and built a 15-2 edge in penalty corners.

“All of that is showing lots of growth and we won by two goals. They are a very good team. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff and their program. They always come out super hard against us. I think we have a genuine rivalry with American. Every year, they are really good so I am very pleased to get the win.”

Holmes-Winn was pleased to see Sharkey tally the late insurance goal. “Everyone was struggling at different points to find their shot; it just happens in some games,” said Holmes-Winn.

“One goal is not enough and two is sometimes not enough either so I think it was good to get that.”

But two goals turned out to be more than enough on Sunday as the Tiger defense continually thwarted American in the circle area.

“Our defense was just super tight,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “Julia Reinprecht was just brilliant back there. She was just awesome as was Katie [Reinprecht] and  Michelle [Cesan] at center mids and Amy Donovan and Amanda Bird in the back. I thought the whole back five was extraordinary today.”

The Tigers will be tightening things up conditioning-wise as they head into the final phase of the season.

“We are going in the right direction, physiologically this is a really tough patch for us,” added Holmes-Winn, whose team hosts Brown (3-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on October 13.

“We are really pushing the girls hard; they have got another 10 days where they are going to get pushed really hard and then we’ll look to taper a bit as we head in. It was good to see them perform today under some fatigue.”

In Sharkey’s view, Princeton is primed to keep performing at a high level. “I think this is a very special team, we have so much depth,” said Sharkey.

“Every single person on our roster from the starters to the subs is giving it 100 percent everyday in practice and doing what they need to do on and off the field to really help the team. It is just a great atmosphere to be in.”

While Alison Nabatoff has been a starter since her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s soccer team in 2009, the star defender hadn’t scored a point in her first 50 appearances for the Tigers.

The Burke, Va. native picked a good time to finally get on the score sheet, assisting on a second half goal by Rachel Sheehy last Saturday to give Princeton a 1-0 lead over visiting Brown.

“We were lucky; we got a ball into the box and Caitlin Blosser fought hard in the middle and won a ball and then Sheehy was there to clean it up so it was a full team effort,” said Nabatoff. “It was my first point ever at Princeton; I got a lot of help from the people up there.”

The Tigers took things from there, adding a goal by Lynessa McGee and thwarting the Brown offense on the way to a 2-0 win as they improved to 7-3-1 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play.

Even though the game was knotted 0-0 at half, Nabatoff believed that the Tigers would come through.

“We are definitely confident in how we are playing right now,” said Nabatoff.

“We aren’t really worried when the game gets late. We have confidence in Jen Hoy, Blosser, Lauren [Lazo], and anyone who is up top that they will get it done.”

The Tiger defense produced one its best efforts of the season as Princeton won its fifth straight game.

“We have given up a bunch of goals this season so it is nice to get a shutout,” said Nabatoff, noting that she was joined on the back line by Gabriella Guzman, Gabrielle Ragazzo, and childhood friend Diane Metcalf-Leggett along with goalie Claire Pinciaro.

“No matter how many goals we have given up this year, we definitely  have an awesome back line and a good goalie. Even in the back, it is a full team effort and everyone does their job.”

The vocal Nabatoff directs traffic along the backline, shouting instructions all game long.

“I love being in that last line of defense; it is four players back there and we are all helping each other,” said Nabatoff, the 2009 Ivy Co-Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Ivy selection.

The team’s group of eight seniors is trying to help Princeton enjoy a big year in their final campaign.

“I think as a class, we want it more than anything,” asserted Nabatoff. “Having a strong group of seniors who are all on the same page and know what they want really helps.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford credits Nabatoff and her classmates with playing a key role in her squad’s recent surge.

“When you have that big senior class, it makes all the difference in the world,” said Shackford, who is in her 18th season at the helm of the Tigers. “You can’t put a price tag on the experience of being in these games.”

In Shackford’s view, Nabatoff is one of her key seniors. “Alison is a phenomenal leader and communicator,” said Shackford. “In terms of being soccer savvy, she is our best, no question. She is not flashy but she gets the job done.”

The Tigers got the job done in the second half against Brown, sharpening up their finishing as the game went on.

“I thought we could have been a little sharper with the ball and could have gone forward a little bit quicker in the first half,” said Shackford.

“I don’t think it was our best half but I think we came out of it in the second half and had a good 25 minutes in that middle section and I think that was enough.”

Shackford credited senior midfielder Sheehy with providing sharp play all over the field.

“She has been phenomenal,” said Shackford. “She was our MVP today, I think, in terms of defending, attacking, and possession.”

In Shackford’s view, her team’s hot play of late is the product of an attacking mentality.

“They have all bought in,” said Shackford. “I think we know we can score goals which is really what every soccer team is looking to do. Jen [Hoy] hasn’t scored in three Ivy games. I think it is good to know that other people can score. We know we can score which is really a confidence builder.”

Nabatoff, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can be an Ivy title contender.

“We know that if we put our minds to it we can accomplish anything,” said Nabatoff. “We have to just keep working hard, that is the main thing. We can’t get complacent.”

KICKING IN: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Zach Halliday kicks the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder and co-captain Halliday came up big in wins over Ewing and WW/P-S last week, tallying a total of two goals and three assists as the Little Tigers posted a pair of 6-0 victories in the contests to extend their winning streak to eight. PHS, now 9-2, plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After rolling to a 6-0 win over visiting Ewing last week, a bunch of the players on the Princeton High boys’ soccer team made a beeline for a pile of homemade Rice Krispie snacks near its bench.

But before they could devour the treats, PHS senior star and co-captain Zach Halliday called them off, telling his teammates to do their post-game warm down jog before satisfying their appetites.

For Halliday, keeping his teammates focused on task is one of the hallmarks of his leadership style.

“Something I try to do as a leader is to be vocal; I try to make sure the team is always taking things seriously,” said Halliday, who served as a captain of the PHS boys’ lacrosse team last spring.

“I am always giving 100 percent effort and also just leading by example when I am out there trying to make the best of a play. I am not saying things to other people that I am not doing myself. I am trying to make them see how it is done and hopefully the younger kids look at me and see the work ethic and things like that.”

In the victory over Ewing, Halliday certainly set a shining example on the field, scoring a goal and picking up two assists.

“I like to see myself as a playmaker but it is really just doing what the team needs,” said Halliday.

“Whether it is scoring goals, whether it is having assists, whether it is playing defense, I am trying to help the team out and fill in where I am needed.”

For Halliday, scoring the goal against Ewing represented a breakthrough.

“That was my first goal of the year; I have been in some different positions this year and different situations,” said Halliday.

“Today was my first day playing my old position, attacking center mid. I played there freshman, sophomore, and junior year. It was my 1st game back and I got my first goal. It may have been the fifth goal of the game but it was still exciting for me. I was trying to get everyone to celebrate with me. I was like come on guys and they were like was that really your first goal.”

Halliday is excited with how PHS is playing lately as it has reeled off eight straight wins since a 1-2 start.

“We got off to a pretty rough start but we weren’t concerned at all,” said Halliday, who chipped in a goal and an assist as PHS topped WW/P-S 6-0 last Thursday to improve to 9-2.

“We knew our best soccer was ahead of us. Back then, it was just developing the cohesiveness and chemistry and working out the kinks here or there. We are heading in the right direction.”

The connection between Halliday and younger brother, Kevin, a junior star for the Little Tigers, has helped the squad’s chemistry.

“Kevin is a real talented player and it is always a treat to get to play with him in any sport. we play together in lacrosse too,” said Halliday.

“I think this year he has shouldered the goal scoring load. Today he scored his 10th goal of the season. I think he is the first double digit goals scorer on our team since Andrei Spirin in our state championship year (2009). Kevin is bringing a new name back to Princeton High soccer and he has been clinical with his finishing. He has been playing like a senior even though he is only a junior; I am proud of him and everything he has been able to accomplish.”

Halliday and classmate Aidan Passannante have accomplished a lot since they started playing together in junior high.

“Aidan and I have been playing together since we were on the Cranbury Middle School team together,” said Halliday.

“We went undefeated our eighth grade year and that was awesome and then we came to Princeton our freshman year and the success has continued. I know Aidan as a player and a person; he is one of my best friends and is one of the most talented players I have ever played with or had to chance to play with. He is a great guy to lean on; he is a great guy to have making plays in big games. I think the chemistry is there and the trust is there.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was thrilled to have senior star Halliday making plays against Ewing.

“Zach had a good game today; it was great to see him get on the score sheet,” said Sutcliffe.

“We were without him for about week and a half because he nicked his knee. He is back and he has reestablished his fitness, form and presence. You can’t really replace him in terms of leadership.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, the team’s performance in the victory over Ewing was a reflection of the sharp form it has been displaying over the last few weeks.

“I thought it was a good result obviously; there was some quality, especially in the second half,” said Sutcliffe.

“It is always good to get a game where you can see some good finishing and give the entire team some minutes too. I think it is just fine-tuning and hard work and knowing you are not at your best early on.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, Kevin Halliday has emerged as one of PHS’s best players

“I think Kevin has either scored or assisted in every game; he is our leading scorer,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“He has 10 goals; he is a real threat around the goal. He works hard; he has  been thinking the game and he has been finding the right spots at the right time and and you have to credit him for that.”

The trio of senior Pablo Arroyo, senior Jeremy Goldsmith, and junior John Blair have been giving the Little Tigers the right stuff during the winning streak.

“Pablo Arroyo has been a really great presence; a great leader for us,” added Sutcliffe.

“I would say of late, Jeremy Goldsmith and John Blair have established themselves. I think they have earned everything they have gotten. Hopefully over the next few weeks, they are going to get even better.”

PHS is aiming to remain sizzling as it starts play in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) on October 20 as it shoots for its fifth county crown in the last six years.

“We are looking forward to it,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16.

“It has been our goal since last spring to work toward being at our best in the opening round of the counties. There is no doubt we are on the track with the mentality of the group.”

Halliday, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are on track for another big MCT run.

“The county tournament is always a magical time,” said Halliday. “It is something that really excites us.”

DOUBLING THEIR FUN: The Princeton High girls’ tennis second doubles team of Allison Hubert, left, and Lindsay Eberhart celebrate after winning a point during their marathon 3-set victory over WW/P-N last Wednesday in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament. The pair of Hubert and Eberhart went on to lose in three sets to the Peddie team of Rebecca Seman and Hannah Spears in the finals. PHS finished third in the team standings at the MCT with the first doubles pair of Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and Rory Lewis winning their flight and first singles star Christina Rosca taking second. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In late September, the Princeton High girls’ tennis team marked itself as surefire contenders for the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship, beating perennial power WW/P-S 4-1 in a dual match.

But in its final outing before the start of the MCT, PHS lost second singles star, Chenchen Wang, to a season-ending knee injury.

Having to juggle its singles lineup as it started play in the county tourney last week at Mercer County Park, the Little Tigers were behind the eight ball.

While PHS fought valiantly, the loss of Wang dashed its title dreams with PHS having to settle for third with WW/P-S taking first and WW/P-N placing second.

Little Tiger head coach Sarah Hibbert lauded her players’ effort but she rued what might have been.

“Overall I think everyone played as well as they could based on the situation that some of them were put in,” said Hibbert, who moved third singles player Katelyn Hojelbane into the No. 2 spot and brought Zehia Dementyev into the lineup at third singles.

“I am proud of the effort that they put forth and that we were still competitive considering that we didn’t have our No. 2 singles player. I really think we could have won it this year and other coaches told me the same thing.”

PHS did get a nice win at the MCT as the first doubles team of senior Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and sophomore Rory Lewis took the title in their flight, topping Sanjana Ravi and Angela Li of WW/P-S, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the championship match.

“They just have to play their game and not get thrown off by the other team,” said Hibbert, reflecting on her first doubles pair.

“Maddie is a senior this year; she has really worked hard and she is such a good doubles player. When she gets fired up, she plays better. Some people when they get too aggressive start to down spiral. She needs to be psyched up and believe to win. I know how much they wanted this.”

The PHS second doubles team of senior Lindsay Eberhart and junior Allison Hubert showed fight as they battled to a three-set win over Ranjitha Vasa and Nanese Koike of WW/P-N in the semis before falling to the Peddie pair of Rebecca Seman and Hannah Spears in the championship match in another three-setter.

“That semifinal match was incredible; they started out playing really well and then they got very nervous in the second set and most of the third set but they were able to regroup at the right time,” said Hibbert recalling the team’s 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) semifinal marathon victory.

“They knew they had a good record in tiebreaks and I just kept telling them that and they kept telling each other we can do this; we can make it to a tiebreaker and we can win this. They just hung really tough when it counted and that was great for team points and for them as well. It is their first year on varsity and it is really nice for them that they were contenders in the tournament and made the final. They work really well together.”

Freshman first singles star Christina Rosca, who made it to the final where she lost 6-1, 6-2 to Samantha Asch of Princeton Day School, gave PHS some great work in her first county tourney.

“Chris made an amazing debut; we knew she was good but it was nice for her to make it to the final and give Sam probably the toughest match she has had in the county tournament,” said Hibbert.

“Chris went through to the final without losing a set. She had a good semis match with Sneha [Rangu of Hightstown] in the morning. I was proud of the way she regrouped after getting down 0-3 in the first set to take it 7-5. She really fought hard against Sam in the final. They were having a great match, you wouldn’t know who was winning from watching it. For Sam to be a senior who has won it three years in a row and for Chris to be a freshman, she put up an amazing fight.”

In Hibbert’s view, Rosca has an amazing future ahead of her. “She has a willingness to work very hard; she trains a lot and she is always out trying to improve her game,” said Hibbert.

“She has the complete repertoire, the serve and volley and great ground strokes. She is a very smart player. She really thinks a lot on court and knows how to find her opponent’s weaknesses. I think she can just keep improving.”

Hibbert hopes her team will keep improving as it deals with the loss of Wang.

“We still have states coming up so we we will see,” said Hibbert, whose team was seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Middletown North 5-0 last Friday in opening round action with the quarters slated for October 9 and the semis scheduled for October 11.

“Obviously this presents some new challenges, having to see how we are going to move forward from here. We have had a good start to the season and we are going to do the best we can as a team to come through.”

GOING FOURTH: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis senior star Samantha Asch pauses last Wednesday during the championship match at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Asch went on to defeat Christina Rosca of Princeton High 6-1, 6-2 to win the title. It was the fourth straight MCT individual crown for the Wake Forest-bound Asch, who won second singles as a freshman and first singles the last three years. Asch’s heroics helped PDS take fifth in the MCT team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Samantha Asch possessed firsthand knowledge of the challenge she faced when she played Christina Rosca last Wednesday in the first singles final at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT).

Princeton Day School senior star Asch has spent a lot of time on the court with Princeton High freshman standout Rosca.

“For years we have been hitting with Marc [Hill of Nassau Racquet Club],” said Asch, who was going for her fourth straight MCT title, having won second singles as a freshman and first singles the last two years.

“This was the first time we ever played a match officially. We did have a scrimmage earlier in the year. She is a really good player; there was no way she was going to hand that to me.”

Asch had to summon her skill and experience to get the upper hand on Rosca in posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory. “I had to concentrate and play hard to beat her,” said Asch.

“I dipped at the beginning of the second set; I had a little bit of a mental lapse. She had a couple of good serving games.”

While Asch was proud to join the select club of players who have won four MCT individual crowns, she was disappointed to see PDS fall short of repeating its team title as it placed fifth with WW/P-S taking first overall.

“I don’t think I could ask for more,” said Asch, reflecting on her MCT achievement.

“I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get the team title because I feel like our team was even better going into this year. That is the way it goes but I am still really happy about it.”

Asch is happy about the improvements she has made in her game over the last year.

“I think I have gotten a lot stronger since last year and I have more power,” said Asch. “I have gotten bigger and my serve has gotten a lot better.”

Now Asch feels ready for a bigger challenge as she has committed to Wake Forest and will be joining the school’s women’s tennis program.  Asch, who is graduating this December from PDS, is excited about getting her college career underway in a few months.

“First of all, I couldn’t ask for better tennis competition than the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference),” said Asch.

“I loved the school. I love the coach and the girls and the atmosphere in general. There is also great academic support for the athletes. I am going to have to play on a high level really consistently.”

PDS head coach Ed Tseng admires Asch’s consistent excellence. “That is very special,” said Tseng, reflecting on Asch’s four-peat.

“We are very proud to have her on our team and she is a great person too. Even as good as she is, she improved her game in the offseason. She improved her serve and her forehand.”

Asch’s battle-tested game made the difference in the win over Rosca. “It was no joke today; Samantha’s experience really came through,” added Tseng.

“Without knowing the score, you would say they are pretty even from watching them. I think Samantha’s experience helped her play the big points better and stay focused on her game plan.”

While PDS had hoped to repeat as MCT team champions, Tseng was happy by how his players performed at the county competition in taking fifth.

“I am proud of how everyone performed,” asserted Tseng. “We just focus on giving our best and have fun. You need a little luck as well. We set the goal to win it again but we also knew it is sports and anything can happen. It is a little disappointing but not that much; nobody is going to win every match in every tournament.”

Some bad luck befell second singles player Renee Karchere-Sun as she was hampered by a sore wrist in taking third in her flight.

“She took last week off because of her wrist so her timing was a little off,” said Tseng.

“That last match she played was fantastic, she is a great player. It is just unfortunate in her semifinal match she wasn’t on her game. If she had been on her game, it would have been a different result. She is a freshman and she is strong.”

The Panthers boast another strong young player at third singles in sophomore Emily Dyckman, who placed fourth in her division.

“Emily is a nice surprise because she played doubles last year,” said Tseng.

“She won a challenge match in the preseason and earned a third singles spot. I am very pleased that she got to this point. She is another great girl who leaves everything on the court. She is such a great athlete.”

In Tseng’s view, his squad can use their effort at the MCT to be better prepared for the upcoming state Prep B tournament.

“It is funny because last year we won the counties but we didn’t do great in the preps,” said Tseng, whose team hosts Notre Dame on October 11 and Moorestown on October 12 before playing at Pennington on October 16.

“So it might be a nice ending to the season to win that. It is possible, we’ll see. I think if we stay healthy, we have a chance. Because this is later in the season now, it could benefit us. We had some good competitive matches now rather than in the beginning of the season. Who knows, maybe that could give us a little momentum.”

Asch, for her part, believes the Panthers will be bringing some extra motivation in the Prep B tourney in the wake of last week’s competition.

“We are going to be hungry for it for sure,” maintained
Asch. “Last year, we weren’t as excited about it because we had already won the county title. I think this year, we are going to come looking for revenge so I think it is going to be exciting. We had a lot of good matches here, everyone played well.”

GRIESE FIRE: Hun School boys’ soccer player Alex Griese controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Griese scored the lone goal as Hun edged visiting Blair 1-0. The Raiders, now 3-7, play at perennial power St. Benedict’s on October 10 and at Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) foe Hill School (Pa.) on October 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School boys’ soccer team lost its first four games this fall, it could have suffered from an uncomfortable sense of deja vu.

In 2011, Hun started 0-10 on the way to a disappointing 4-12 campaign.

This year’s Raider squad, though, has avoided a similar tailspin, having regrouped to win three of its next five games.

Hun head coach Pat Quirk noted that his players never got discouraged despite the rocky start.

“They haven’t stopped working,” said Quirk. “They have really buckled down.”

Last Saturday, the Raiders buckled down when it counted as they edged the Blair Academy 1-0.

“It was a good win,” said Quirk. “We may not have played the best soccer but it was good to start the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) season with a win.”

Hun is getting some of its best play from junior goalie Chris Meinert, who recorded eight saves in the victory.

“Meinert made some great saves,” said Quirk of his keeper who earned his second straight shutout as Hun had blanked the Princeton Day School 2-0 last Wednesday.

“There was a flurry of shots at one point, five or six and he stayed on his line. I think he is getting into a rhythm. We want him to be more vocal and be bigger in the box and he is coming around.”

In the win over the Buccaneers, Hun got a big goal from senior Alex Griese.

“We put Griese on the outside and he is getting more space,” said Quirk. “He is a creative player.”

In Quirk’s view, getting more balls in the back of the net has made the difference for the Raiders.

“We are scoring goals,” said Quirk, whose team’s initial win came when it beat Academy of New Church (Pa.) 4-0 on September 27.

“We got two goals in a loss to Pennington. I thought we played pretty well; they got some goals on defensive mix-ups. It was good to see us score a bunch of goals against ANC, we haven’t done that in a while.”

The Raiders have been getting some nice contributions from such experienced players as senior Peter Stoddard, junior Bailey Hammer, senior Robert Hedberg, junior Andres Gonzalez, and senior Nick Revano.

“Stoddard and Bailey have been playing well; Robert Hedberg is new to the team and he has been playing well,” said Quirk.

“The back line has been good. Andres and Revano have been good in the middle of the field.”

Quirk has been happy with the contributions he has been getting from some of his younger players.

“All the freshmen have been playing well; they have been getting quality minutes,” said Quirk, whose freshmen include defenders MJ Cobb, Devin Ducharme, and Alex Semler.

After battling high-quality foe Trenton Catholic hard in a 2-1 loss on Monday, the Raiders play at perennial power St. Benedict’s on October 10 and at MAPL foe Hill School (Pa.) on October 13.

“They are two of the best teams in the area and the state,” said Quirk, whose team is now 3-7 after the loss to TCA which saw Revano find the back of the net for the Raiders.

“Hill has a really good record so far. We need to put together some good soccer and not get down on ourselves if things don’t go well. It is a fast-paced game and we have to be ready for that. This is going to help us.”

WELL PLAYED: Stuart Country Day field hockey star Amy Hallowell sprints to the ball on a penalty corner in recent action. Junior midfielder Hallowell’s relentless play has been a bright spot for the Tartans this fall. Stuart, which moved to 3-8-1 with a 1-1 tie against Steinert last Friday, plays at the Blair Academy on October 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over her first two years with the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team, Amy Hallowell helped anchor the Tartan backline.

This fall, junior Hallowell has moved up to the midfield and is taking a greater role in the Stuart attack.

“I am more offense-minded this year,” said Hallowell. “I like putting the ball off to both sides and getting it to people. Whenever I can help get them get it up the field, I like to do that.”

With Hallowell making plays all over the field, Stuart battled Steinert to a 1-1 overtime tie last Friday to move to 3-8-1 on the season.

While Stuart came excruciatingly close to a win as it held a 1-0 lead until the Spartans scored with 20.3 seconds left in regulation, Hallowell was pleased with the brand of hockey displayed by the Tartans.

“I think we let up a little at the end but we worked hard throughout the entire game,” said Hallowell.

“It was a good game and we played with a lot of intensity. Both the defense and offense played really well. We worked well together today so that was good.”

Hallowell likes the work Stuart is getting from its crew of freshmen as it has gone 2-3-1 in its last six games.

“The freshmen are working hard at practice and everyone is working hard to better themselves,” asserted Hallowell. “The entire team has improved so much.”

Utilizing the experience she has gained by starting since her freshman year, Hallowell has given the younger players some reinforcement on the field.

“I just give them tips on positioning,” said Hallowell. “If I see something that may help them out with their individual skills I will point it out. Usually they keep learning and practicing things.”

Over the years, Hallowell learned a lot from her older sisters, Kristi and Ani, who both starred for the Tartans.

“I think over the years they guided me into the right positions,” said Hallowell.

“I am so used to them telling me to back up or to go here and mark this person. I learned from them and I always try to do it like they did with a positive attitude.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik saw a lot of positives in her team’s performance against Steinert.

“We did a great job putting the ball from the back to the middies; we transitioned beautifully against a big, strong team,” said Bruvik, whose team took a 1-0 lead on a goal by freshman Elena Bernewitz with 28:20 left in regulation.

“They always have good athletes and I thought we did a good job of controlling the ball and giving our attack an opportunity to put it in during the first half. As long as we continued to do that, we would make something happen in the second half.”

The Stuart defense also did a good job, looking coolheaded for most of the afternoon.

“The backs really held their own today and that is something that we worked on yesterday, not panicking, knowing where to go and marking tighter,” said Bruvik, noting that the Spartan goal came off a well-placed long ball. “Near the circle, you’ve got to mark, you can’t just contain.

Hallowell certainly made her mark for the Tartans. “Amy is relentless,” said Bruvik. “She was absolutely exhausted at some points of this game; she gave her whole heart.”

Stuart’s group of freshmen have been showing a lot of heart as they have adjusted quickly to the varsity level.

“They are players; they just go out and play,” said Bruvik, whose corps of newcomers includes Catherine Donahue, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser, and Sam Servis in addition to Bernewitz.

“They are learning through the drills but also they are playing against tough competition. They are learning how to fight back and be more aggressive. In these types of games, they play through it.”

With its steep learning curve, Stuart is hoping it can be a sleeper come tournament time.

“We keep playing good solid, competition; teams in this area that I know are doing well,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at the Blair Academy on October 10.

“The players know what is right and what is not right and they know how hard they need to work. They have been so dedicated, all of them.”

Hallowell, for her part, is confident about the team’s prospects, both in the short term and long term.

“I think if we put our minds to it we can definitely do some damage in the tournaments; it will all depend on how everyone works together everyday,” said Hallowell. “I think both the rest of this season and next year are going to be great.”

October 3, 2012

TOM TERRIFIC: Princeton University men’s soccer star Thomas Sanner dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, the freshman forward made a superb debut in Ivy League play, scoring a goal to help the Tigers edge Dartmouth 2-1 in overtime in the league opener for both teams. Sanner, the younger brother of Tiger senior star and co-captain Matt Sanner, leads Princeton in goals (3) and assists (5) and has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week four times already this season, including this week. Princeton, now 5-3 overall and 1-0 Ivy, hosts Brown on October 6.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Thomas Sanner has been looking forward to getting his first taste of Ivy League men’s soccer for a few years.

The Indianapolis, Ind. native has followed the career of his older brother, Matt, a senior star and co-captain for the Princeton University squad, and decided to join him.

Last Saturday, the younger Sanner, now a freshman forward on the Tigers, made his Ivy debut as Princeton hosted Dartmouth in the league opener for both teams.

Sanner knew he was in for a challenge as the Tigers battled the Big Green.

“All I was hearing this week was how much more intense, physical, and fast the game is in the Ivy League,” said Sanner.

“Because you don’t have a tournament, the games are that much more important. Especially the first game against Dartmouth; they have been a perennial powerhouse.”

The 6’3, 185-pound Sanner didn’t waste any time making a big impact, scoring the first goal of the contest 17 minutes into the first half as he converted a feed from his older brother.

“It was kind of funny because my brother passed me the ball; he has been teasing me all year how I haven’t scored on one of his passes,” said Sanner.

“I got it down the right side and I didn’t really have anything else so I just hit it low to the back post. That was crazy; I blacked out when I scored.”

Dartmouth responded with a goal 20 minutes later and neither team scored again in regulation and the game went into overtime knotted in a 1-1 stalemate.

Just 1:45 into the extra session, the Tigers came through as Cameron Porter banged a ball off the Dartmouth goalie over the line with Sanner lurking in the box as the Tigers won 2-1.

“We felt like we really deserved this game; I think this might be the best that we have played as a team,” said Sanner.

“There was a really good vibe going into OT. We were saying just get it quick and we got it quick. Cam made a great run down the sideline and he tried to cross it and the goalie missed it and it went barely over the line. I probably should have hit it in but that was Cam’s goal.”

Sanner has adjusted quickly to the college game, establishing himself as a key weapon for the Tigers.

“The game is a lot more physical and quicker,” said Sanner, who leads Princeton in goals (3) and assists (5) and has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week four times already this season, including this week.

“You have to get the ball off your feet a lot quicker. It has definitely taken me a lot longer to get used to it but I feel like I have been getting in a groove.”

Having his older brother around has helped Sanner get in a groove on and off the field.

“Ever since Matt got here, it has just been a dream to come here and play with him; this is the first time I have ever played with him,” said Sanner, noting that he was on the JV as a freshman at North Central High as his brother starred on the varsity.

“It is amazing; there is nothing better than the goal celebration and just jumping up and hugging each other. He has been telling me all the mistakes that he has made and has introduced me to a bunch of people. It has been really fun.”

It was certainly fun for Princeton head coach Jim Barlow to see his club rise to the occasion in the win over Dartmouth.

“I thought that the effort we put on the field against Rutgers [in a 2-0 loss on September 8] was one of the more disappointing efforts we have put on the field since I have been here,” said Barlow, whose team has won four straight to improve to 5-3 in his 17th season at the helm of the program.

“Today, it was the exact opposite. I think from start to finish this was one of  the best efforts that we have put together, competing-wise, soccer-wise, and discipline-wise.”

Some spirited competition in practice has helped Princeton get on the winning track.

“We had a really good week of training and the credit for so much of how we are going right now goes to the guys who are not getting in the game because the training sessions have been so good,” said Barlow.

“There have been some days where the second team has beaten the first team. The battles everyday in training remind us of the good years we have had.”

Barlow knows that a team has to set a positive tone from the start of the league campaign to have a good year.

“We knew from the last couple of years how important the first couple of games in the league are,” said Barlow.

“With only seven league games, if you get in a hole then you are panicked a little bit and your backs are against the wall and you have to win. If you win early, you get a little momentum and you get confidence. There is not as much pressure on you. You have got to win your home games; it was a really big result for us today.”

The Tigers are getting a big lift from precocious freshman Sanner. “It is really nice to have a pure center forward like Thomas,” said Barlow.

“To have a guy who stays all the way up the field, who doesn’t mind if guys are up his back all the time and who is big and strong enough that he can hold guys off is just a really nice weapon to have. He can pass and he is really good around the goal.”

With sophomore star Julian Griggs sidelined by an ACL injury, the Tigers need Sanner and others to be sharp around the goal.

“Julian is a guy who we were counting on for a lot of goals this year so now  we have to figure out where those goals are going to come from,” said Barlow.

“I think we still have weapons and different ways of getting dangerous, whether it is with our possession on counters or restarts, throw-ins, and corners. I think we got a lot of opportunities today.”

In Barlow’s view, the Tigers have been seizing opportunity during their winning streak.

“I think we are just getting better as a team,” asserted Barlow. “I just think when you look at how we move the ball now and how we stay connected now compared to three weeks ago, we are better. I think the guys have really taken everyday seriously and it is showing in how it looks offensively and defensively.”

With the student fans showing some raucous support at Roberts Stadium, the Tigers are looking like a team that is going to be tough to beat at home.

“The other thing I will say is how great it is to have some really fun fans at the games here,” said Barlow. “You can’t help but feel the energy and that’s awesome.”

Sanner, for his part, believes Princeton can draw a lot of cheers this fall.

“Last year when you watched, these were the games they would lose,” said Sanner.

“I think they had two or three games last year where they lost in the last minute of OT. This is a  big confidence boost; we have got to keep it up.”

SETTING THE TONE: Princeton University football player ­Anthony Gaffney eludes a tackler in recent action. Last Saturday at Columbia in the Ivy League opener for both teams, former Pennington School standout Gaffney returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to set the tone as the Tigers rolled to a 33-6 victory. Gaffney, who also had two interceptions in the game, was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week and National Co-Freshman of the Week. Princeton, now 1-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, plays at Lafayette (3-1) on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the naysayers may have been bashing the Princeton University football team after it blew a late lead in losing 21-20 to Georgetown on September 21 and falling to 0-2, Bob Surace wasn’t about to go negative on his squad.

“I decided to be as positive as I could when we practiced on Tuesday,” said Princeton head coach Surace.

“I didn’t know how it was going to go. The whole group responded well and I thought we practiced well all week.”

In fact, Surace felt his team was on the verge of a breakthrough even though his record stood at 2-20 in his tenure guiding the Tigers.

“We had played hard and with a lot of energy in the first two games,” said Surace, whose squad fell 17-14 at Lehigh in its season opener.

“We just lacked the small details and things like that hurt you against the good teams.”

Playing at Columbia last Saturday in the Ivy League opener for both programs, the Tigers certainly looked like a good team as they rolled to a 33-6 win over the Lions before 4,469 at R.K. Kraft Field.

It was Princeton’s first road win since the final game of the 2009 season and the 27-point margin of victory was the largest for the Tigers since a 30-0 win over Dartmouth in the 2005 season finale.

Princeton didn’t wait long to set a positive tone as promising freshman Anthony Gaffney returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Surace had the sense that Princeton could produce something big on special teams.

“We had the players watch film of what they were doing well on special teams and they saw films of them making mistakes,” said Surace.

“Against Georgetown, we were so close on kickoffs. We were just a block or two away. The players went out and were positive.”

Early in the second quarter, the Tigers turned a special teams blunder into points as Tom Moak took a botched snap and hit Des Smith on a 43-yard scoring pass to give Princeton a 14-0 lead.

“You don’t want to have errors on the snap,” said Surace, whose team also scored a touchdown in the Georgetown loss in a similar situation.

“But we practice that since it might happen once or twice in a season. To see the poise and execution was great. Tom did a great job. Nolan [Bieck] blocked two guys and that is pretty hard for a kicker. Smith took a great angle to get open.”

The teams traded field goals over the rest of the quarter and Princeton took a 17-3 lead into the locker room at intermission.

Despite the advantage, Surace was still wary. “I didn’t think we played our best; we had a few too many mistakes,” said Surace.

Columbia narrowed the gap to 17-6 with a field goal midway through the third quarter. The Tiger defense stiffened after that, pinning the Lions back at their own 20-yard line after a bad snap on a punt. Princeton got a Bieck field goal and took a 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Tigers dominated the fourth quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points. Princeton took a 27-6 lead after Quinn Epperly hit Roman Wilson in a 44-yard touchdown pass with 13:20 left in regulation.

Princeton tacked on six more points as Bieck hit field goals of 29 and 24 yards to make the final margin 33-6. Freshman Bieck, who had four field goals on the day, was later named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the win was the solid performance Princeton got from its quarterback rotation of sophomores Connor Michelson and Epperly. Michelson hit on 11-of-19 passes for 109 yards on the day while Epperley went 7-of-10 for 101 yards and also rushed for 42 yards.

“They are good players; they work hard,” said Surace, whose team outgained Columbia 335 yards to 213. “They are making good decisions; I can count on one hand the bad decisions they have made in three games and that is pretty good.”

A consistent bright spot for Princeton this fall has been the play of its defensive unit, which is giving up 14.7 points a game this year after surrendering an average of 32.5 in 2011. On Saturday, the Tigers held the Lions to 39 yards rushing and got two turnovers on a pair of interceptions by Gaffney.

“I think the defense played really well,” asserted Surace, who had eight players with four or more tackles against Columbia. “The guys are tackling well.”

In Surace’s view, the manner of the win should help solidify the belief the coaching staff has been trying to instill in its players as the program looks to turn the corner after two straight 1-9 campaigns.

“I think some of the guys were looking not to lose; they were not in complete belief,” said Surace.

“This group of seniors really believes; they feel this group is different. We are seeing progress. Against Lehigh we had played well but they had beaten us pretty good the previous two years. This year we could have won; we just needed one more play. I feel we played OK against Georgetown; we left some things on the field. To win like we did on Saturday was nice to see.”

While the Tigers basked in the glow of the victory, Surace knows that his team still had plenty to prove as it plays at Lafayette (3-1) on October 6 before getting into the heart of its Ivy League campaign.

“We can’t get caught up in it,” said Surace, whose team is now in a four-way tie for first in the Ivy standings with Harvard, Penn, and Cornell.

“We have a tough Lafayette team coming up. Whether you win or lose, you still come in Sunday and work on fixing things. It is only three weeks into the season. We are feeling better about ourselves; I think this is something we can build on.”

MOORE SUPPORT: UMass men’s hockey fans hold up placards with images of Kevin Moore as he made his sole appearance during his final campaign as the fourth-string goalie for the Minutemen this March on the program’s senior night. Moore, who started playing the game with Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) as a five-year-old, is looking to continue his hockey career on the pro level as he tries out for the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League later this month.

It only lasted 1:34 on senior night for the University of Massachusetts men’s ice hockey team but it made years of toil and perseverance worthwhile for Kevin Moore.

For Moore, who first hit the ice with the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) as a youngster, that stint was his sole appearance during his final campaign as the fourth-string goalie for the Minutemen.

While Moore would have liked to seen a lot more action last winter, he will never forget that evening at the Mullins Center.

“Looking back, it is the best day of my life,” said Moore, reflecting on getting into the UMass’s 5-1 win over Merrimack on March 2.

“I am getting a big smile on my face just talking about it now. All that behind the scenes work has paid off; I was cheered by people who didn’t even know me. It shows that a little guy can be recognized; a team is about everybody.”

The appearance was also the culmination of a Twitter campaign, #FreeMoore, started by Moore’s roommates and some stalwart UMass fans, to get Moore on the ice for senior night. It ended up drawing hundreds of Tweets, including some from NHL players intrigued by Moore’s underdog tale.

“My friends and family picked up on it and then my teammates started tweeting,” said Moore, who was cheered wildly by the crowd of 5,219 on hand, many of whom had been waving placards with huge images of Moore.

“It just blew up; celebrities and pro athletes got involved. There were tweets from NHL guys like James Van Riemsdyk, and Derek Stepan and John Buccigross of ESPN. Some guys were calling me the ‘Rudy’ of hockey (referring to the movie about Rudy Ruettinger, a walk-on who made it on the field for the Notre Dame football team).”

Later this month, Moore, 24, will be looking to produce another Rudy-like tale as he tries out for the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League.

“I love being part of a team and 25 guys coming together for one goal,” said the 6‘1, 180-pound Moore.

“I am still shooting for the NHL. I know it is a longshot. I don’t want to give up my goals. You saw what happened to guys like Kurt Warner and Tim Thomas. I look at their examples. I am going to work as hard as I can. I don’t want to be old and regretting that I didn’t give it my best.”

Moore took a circuitous route to become a member of the UMass team, starting his high school career at Montgomery High before playing two years at Williston-Northhampton (Mass.).

After trying out for several junior teams, he hooked on with the Phoenix Polar Bears of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) where he went 16-4 with a goals against average of 1.98 in the 2008-09 season. He then got the chance to walk-on to UMass when one of its goalies decided to focus on baseball.

It didn’t take long for Moore to develop a passion for the game “I started playing hockey with the PYHA when I was five,” recalled Moore.

“I was playing soccer and I said to my parents that I wanted to play hockey and they said I had to make a choice and I chose hockey. I wanted to be on the ice all the time so I eventually switched to goalie.”

After Moore made the switch to goalie, he honed his skills by going to summer goalie camps run by former Princeton University netminder Craig Fiander.

“I started with Craig when I was about 10,” said Moore. “It was great to have goalie attention over the summer; you couldn’t get that anywhere else. Craig and the counselors were Princeton University goalies. Before that, I basically learned from watching goalies on TV. It made it easier to learn from having things explained to you by goalies who had played at a high level.”

Fiander, for his part, had the sense that Moore was going to develop into something special.

“I remember Kevin as a raw kid; he was just picking up the position and he was a lefty,” said Fiander, who held his 15th Annual Textbook Goaltending Summer School this past July at the Ice Land Skating Center.

“There was something about him. He was a great kid. He was a good student. He listened, he asked good questions, he wanted to learn.”

In Fiander’s view, Moore’s story exemplifies some of the key life lessons he strives to impart to his goalie students.

“He has worked his butt off,” added Fiander. “He has dealt with adversity. His perseverance is the key thing for me. I remember that he sent me a video when he was trying to get a spot in junior hockey. He has always worked so hard at trying to get an opportunity.”

For Moore, getting the opportunity to play early in his career at Montgomery High helped build his confidence.

“The highlight was winning Jim Dowd Cup, Southern White Division, as freshman,” said Moore, reflecting on his MHS career.

“I became a starter halfway through the season. Montgomery had no tradition of winning at that point. No one expected us to win; it was a big Cinderella run.”

Realizing that he needed more seasoning in order to play at the college level, Moore headed to The Williston Northampton School in western Massachusetts.

“I got a lot out of it, more than I expected,” said Moore, who played two years at Williston and was the MVP of the hockey team in his junior year.

“It was great how much the teachers cared about you. From a hockey standpoint, I was playing against guys who were stars of their high school. I was on my own for the first time, a year earlier than my peers. I felt like I had a head start.”

After graduating from Williston, Moore hooked on with the Phoenix Polar Bears of the WSHL, a Junior A Tier III hockey league.

“I went to five or six junior league tryouts: I was coming back from last tryout in Chicago with my dad and he said we are running out of cash for more tryouts and that it might be time to be looking for colleges,” said Moore.

“I convinced him to let me go to one more tryout. I had done the east so I went out to Phoenix. I killed the tryout; I don’t think I let in a goal in two day. I made it so they had to take me. It was a really strong team; it was a great situation.”

Looking for a good college situation, Moore found a spot with UMass in January 2009 when one of the team’s back-up goalies, Matt Gedman, son of former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, switched to baseball full-time.

“I got there with no expectations; I was a real walk-on,” said Moore of the program which was headed by former Princeton head coach Don Cahoon.

“They told me I would be on the team for the rest of freshman year and the next year and then we’ll see what happens.”

Not seeing any game action as a freshman or sophomore, Moore found ways to stay sharp.

“I created my own game situations,” said Moore. “If someone was scratched or looking for more playing time, I would have them come in and work on stuff and I would see a ton of pucks.”

In his junior year, Moore did see some ice time when he got into an exhibition game against the Under-20 Swedish National team and a late season game against Merrimack.

“Getting into the Merrimack game was a thrill; I felt I had made it,” said Moore.

“I had achieved my goal of playing D-1 hockey; I had been going through a lot of downs over the past few years. We were down 11-2 when I got in so I couldn’t smile like I wanted on the way home. I was telling my friends I was now statistically relevant.”

Coming into his senior year, Moore thought he was going to pile up some more stats but was disappointed to learn that the coaches had something else in mind for him.

“My confidence was high; I thought I was going to see time,” said Moore. “The two freshmen goalies had been hurt leading up to the first game. I ended up having a meeting with the coaches. They told me they wanted me to be a mentor to the two freshmen and sophomore goalies and help coach them when the goalie coach wasn’t there. They had predetermined my role based on recruiting the kids and the fact that they had scholarships.”

Characteristically, Moore decided to make the most of his role. “I could have folded and enjoyed my senior year,” said Moore, who was named as an “executive officer” by Cahoon to help the team’s captains.

“Instead, I made a commitment to be ready in case we had injuries. I was the first one on the ice and the last one off. I was a rink rat; I would be doing extra stretching or conditioning when teammates were at home doing video games.”

As Moore looks to catch on in the pro ranks, he will be bringing the sense of commitment he displayed during his UMass career.

“The biggest thing is to never give up; I never gave up or threw in the towel,” said Moore, a journalism major who earned Hockey East All-Academic honors during his years with the Minutemen.

“I had a goal to be D-1 goalie and I gave everything to that goal. I may not have been a starter but I was the hardest worker in college hockey the last four years. You can achieve something good even if you don’t get the ultimate goal.”

SWEEPING UP: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Dana Smith heads up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday in a 3-1 victory over Hamilton, junior Smith showed her versatility, playing sweeper for much of the game and then moving up front and scoring the winning goal. PHS, which handed Steinert its first loss of the season when it beat the Spartans 2-0 last Saturday, is now 6-2 and hosts WW/P-S on October 4 before playing at WW/P-N on October 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dana Smith played sweeper along the back line for much of the game as the Princeton High girls’ soccer team hosted Hamilton last Thursday.

But when Hamilton scored a goal early in the second half to knot the game at 1-1, the speedy Smith moved up into the PHS attack.

Giving the team a lift, Smith put the Hornet defense on its heels as she made some penetrating runs at the Hamilton goal.

With just over seven minutes left in regulation, Smith’s pace and persistence paid off as she blasted a shot into the lower corner of the goal to give PHS a 2-1 lead. The Little Tigers added an insurance goal by Shannon Pawlak in the waning seconds of the game to post a hard-earned 3-1 victory.

In reflecting on her game-winning tally, junior Smith said it came down to being composed when she got her chance.

“We were really trying to fight back and get the go-ahead goal,” said Smith. “That ball was just bouncing around in the box and it landed at my feet and I took the time. On my first couple of shots I was rushing them, so I looked up and found that side of the net. It was what we had to do to put the game away.”

Smith, who also stars for the PHS girls’ lacrosse team, is more than happy to provide versatility for the Little Tigers.

“I like playing both ways,” said Smith. “I like getting a chance to go forward and make things happen but I also know that I have to play in the back and make sure to keep balls away from Lauren [goalie Lauren Ullmann] and support the team that way. Right now because we are missing Emily Pawlak and we need the defense to be together so I want to be there to help out my team and do whatever I need to do.”

In Smith’s view, PHS has been coming together well. “We have really been making sure that we connect and find feet and play together as a whole team,” said Smith.

“We have great depth on our bench and we have been making sure that everyone finds a way to help the team. We all get forward together and we all get back together. We don’t let things like giving up a goal slow us down; we need to rise up and keep powering through.”

As a battle-tested junior, Smith is looking to help the team through utilizing her experience.

“Now I have more of a leadership role, we have three freshmen playing really good minutes so I am helping them out,” said Smith.

“Especially with Haley Bodden in the back with me; it is her first time playing that position so I like being able to help her. It is also setting an example for the other girls in practice, games, and off the field too.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand knows that Smith can help his squad in a number of ways.

“Dana is a creator; she makes things happen,” asserted Hand. “Whether it is winning the ball or settling something that is pretty ugly and getting it down to the ground again. She is always moving quickly and is a quick decision maker. She is dynamic.”

In Hand’s view, his team made some good decisions with the ball as it overcame Hamilton.

“We have been focusing since the beginning of the year on how to play within the system that we have,” said Hand, whose team topped Steinert 2-0 last Saturday in improving to 6-2.

“It is one thing to establish a 4-4-2, it is another thing to do what that system needs you to do. I felt we had very good supporting play throughout the first half and in big chunks of the second half too. And in the second half, when we might have been rushing too much, I thought we still managed to stay composed and keep supporting. We were relaxed enough when we received the ball to find feet rather than just play too quickly. It created situations where we had great final passes and terrific finishing.”

The Little Tigers also showed some character as they battled back after the Hamilton tally.

“The goal was dismaying; I don’t think they created it particularly well, they just got the goal,” said Hand.

“So our team was a little disappointed but we did seem to bounce back and we certainly played with a lot of heart needing a goal. I think we had great composure given that sense of pressure.”

After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Hopewell in the season opener, PHS has shown more creativity on the offensive end of the field.

“It all seems like part of the same progression; the Robbinsville loss looks like a step back but I think we have learned from every game,” said Hand, who will be looking for his squad to keep progressing as it hosts WW/P-S on October 4 before playing at WW/P-N on October 9.

“We are just a better team than we were 10 days ago. After the loss to Hopewell in the opener, there was no question of how hard we worked, the question was how are we are going to score and we have kept trying to answer that question.”

Smith, for her part, feels that the team’s daily focus has helped it find the right answers.

“We are not thinking about what is happening next week and the weeks after that,” said Smith.

“We are not thinking about any tournaments, counties and states, that are coming up. We have to keep working hard everyday in practice and not getting complacent with our wins.”

DAT’S FINE: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Kevin ­Vahdat heads to the finish line in a meet earlier this season. Last Saturday at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational, junior Vahdat finished sixth individually to help PHS win the team title in the Group 3 division. Vahdat covered the the 3.1 mile course at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park in a time of 16:49. PHS is next in action when it runs against Lawrence, Steinert, and WW/P-N on October 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With senior star Luke Bozich sidelined by an ankle injury, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team faced an uphill battle as they competed in the Passaic County Coaches Invitational last Saturday.

But showing depth and resolve, PHS ended up at the front of the pack in the Group 3 division, edging Middletown North by four points.

For Little Tiger head coach John Woodside, the victory reflected his squad’s character as much as its talent.

“It is always good to be the winning team,” said Woodside. “It is nice to look a little deeper, the indications are real nice. Stuff happens and you adjust. Guys fill in and other guys do well. Cross country is absolutely a team sport; the individual is secondary.”

Woodside was happy with the individual effort he is getting from junior Kevin Vahdat, who finished sixth on Saturday, covering the 3.1 mile course at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park in a time of 16:49.

“I am really proud of him; he is starting to do the things we know he is capable of,” said Woodside.

“He has had a series of leg injuries. He is growing and maturing; his stride has changed a lot. He has adjusted to it. He is running pain free and it is nice to see.”

PHS got some nice performances from two veterans, junior Conor Donahue and senior Matt Wong, at the Passaic meet, as they placed 11th and 12th, respectively.

“Conor has had leg pain; he is dealing with a problem in his quads,” said Woodside.

“He has to hold back a little bit; he finished well on Saturday. Matt Wong had a great race. He was tired Tuesday and disappointed by how he did. He came back today.”

Two members of the team’s supporting cast, junior Anders Berg and sophomore Jacob Rist, came through in a big way on Saturday.

“Anders Berg and Jacob Rist are two guys that are pulling closer to the front of the pack,” said Woodside.

“At four and five, they did a fantastic job; they really won the race for the team. Middletown North had three guys in the top 8 but Anders and Jacob were ahead of their 4th place runner. I am really proud of how they did.”

Woodside expect Bozich to do some fantastic things when he returns to action.

“There are multiple indications that he is our top runner,” said Woodside. “He has been quite a way out front in training runs. He is taking that step that runners sometimes take. He is stepping into role of leader; he is not afraid and always runs hard.”

In Woodside’s view, PHS has the ability to make a good run in the upcoming county and state meets.

“The guys are feeling good about where they are going,” said Woodside, noting that program got some good performances from its younger runners as Simon Gabriel won the JV race to help PHS take second in the team standings in that event and that the freshman team placed first in their race.

“They are happy with the way things have gone and focused on where we are going in another month. The kids are really excited; they are coming together. We have hit our stride in training and we are getting ready for the big meets.”

GOAL HAPPY: Princeton Day School field hockey player Emma Quigley celebrates after a goal in recent action. Last Saturday, junior forward Quigley scored two goals as PDS topped Blair 5-0. The Panthers, now 5-1-2, host Solebury School (Pa.) on October 3 and Morrisville High (Pa.) on October 5 before playing at Montgomery on October 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After losing to Lawrenceville last Thursday to suffer their first defeat of the season, Emma Quigley and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey squad knew they had to play more as a unit.

“That was not one of our best games; we didn’t start off on a good note,” said junior forward Quigley, reflecting on the 4-2 loss to the Big Red. “Coach [Tracey] Arndt wanted us to pass more and let the ball do the work.”

As the Panthers hosted Blair Academy last Saturday, it didn’t take long for them to regain their offensive rhythm. With Quigley and senior star Andrea Jenkins finding the back of the cage, PDS jumped out to a 2-0 halftime lead over the Buccaneers.

Just over 10 minutes into the second half, Quigley scored again and minutes later Jenkins tallied and the rout was on as PDS cruised to a 5-0 victory and improved to 5-1-2.

In Quigley’s view, bouncing back with the victory over Blair should get the Panthers back in the right track.

“I think this game has really pumped up our spirits for the next couple of weeks,” asserted Quigley.

“We have Montgomery and Princeton High, which are going to be really tough games. It can only get better from here. We are climbing up the mountain of success.”

For Quigley, who has been scoring a goal a game this fall, her success has come, in part, from the work she has put in with the Total Dutch Field Hockey club.

“I have played club non-stop since last season and that has improved my game so much,” said Quigley.

“I practiced for the festival [USA Field Hockey’s National Hockey Festival] I practiced for the Disney [Showcase] and then I did indoor and my spring team all summer. I am practicing for festival now. I have improved so much from that.”

The arrival of new head coach Arndt, a former All-American at Penn State and national team member, has helped PDS improve collectively.

“She has really created and made our team a unit; we are so close on and off the field,” asserted Quigley.

“In practice everyday we do stuff that really helps us improve in the games; we do specific stuff that we didn’t do in the game before so we do that in the next game. I think our team as a whole has gotten so much better; it helps the forwards in general to get the ball and get it in the goal.”

PDS head coach Arndt saw improvement from her team in the win over Blair.

“During the game, when we had our moments of really good play it was when we were looking to pass it more than dribble,” said Arndt.

“We have some players on the team who the other teams know they have the skill and they are sending two or three girls at them so we need to pass quickly. That’s what we were focusing on as well as our Finishing. To get five goals in any game is hard and I am glad that we were able to do that.”

The Panthers did learn some lessons from the Lawrenceville defeat. “Lawrenceville was a great game because it showed us our weaknesses,” said Arndt.

“I think Lawrenceville was a very good team; they were solid, they were fluid and quite frankly they beat us to every ball and that was hard to recover from. So that was something we really worked on yesterday. We have got big games coming up. We have to be thankful that we were able to pull out a win today but know that we still have to come in on Monday and work hard.”

Quigley has certainly been giving PDS some good work. “Emma has got a lot of speed up front which is good,” said Arndt.

“The one thing you need to be a scorer is the want to score and she does. She scraps those balls and she is able to get in good spots and she puts it away. She can see the goal and see where the holes are so that’s been good.”

The Panther backline has very few holes with the trio of senior defenders Corinne Urisko, Cami McNeely, and Zeeza Cole together with senior goalie Sarah Trigg.

“The three that we have back there and Sarah Trigg in goal have been really solid for us,” said Arndt.

“They have really listened to what we have asked them to do and have executed. Our marking still needs to improve and that’s something we are continuing to work on. That is a team thing.”

The play of juniors Sarah Brennan and Mary Travers in the midfield has helped hold the team together.

“Sarah and Mary in the center are nice; they are double threats in that they have their attacking skills and they have their defending skills as well,” added Arndt.

While the Panthers have displayed plenty of skill in their first eight games, Arndt wants to see the team to be more cohesive on the field.

“To have only lost one game is good,” said Arndt, whose team hosts Solebury School (Pa.) on October 3 and Morrisville High (Pa.) on October 5 before playing at Montgomery on October 9.

“We had done some really good things in the beginning that we have been losing a little bit recently in terms of our basic skills so I think our focus for the next week is the fundamentals and to really start to play as a team. The more we play fluidly and as a team the more we can rely on everybody and not just one person.

Quigley, for her part, believes that PDS can do some really good things as the fall unfolds.

“We have really high hopes; we have some great team goals,” said Quigley. “We really hope that we can get up there and give it our all and make this a great year.”

CARR CRASH: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Breander-Carr runs into a foe going after a ball. Last week, junior midfielder/defender Breander-Carr scored goals in two straight games as Hun tied Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 2-2 on September 25 and tied East Brunswick 1-1 to move to 2-1-3. In upcoming action, the Raiders play at Springside Academy (Pa.) on October 4 before hosting Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Breander-Carr wasn’t quite at full speed last fall for the Hun School girls’ soccer team after suffering an ACL injury in 2010.

This season, though, the junior midfielder/defender is feeling 100 percent and she gave ample evidence of that last week as Hun battled Episcopal Academy (Pa.) to a 2-2 tie.

Alternating between midfield and defense, Breander-Carr was all over the field, getting loose balls and displaying her sharp ball skills. Breander-Carr’s hustle paid off as she scored midway through the first half to give Hun a 2-1 lead in the September 25 contest.

While the tally wasn’t one for the highlight reel as Breander-Carr bounced in her own rebound, she was proud of her effort.

“That was probably the ugliest goal I have ever scored,” said Breander-Carr with a grin. “I worked really hard for that; it wasn’t pretty but I will take it.”

Breander-Carr enjoys working from different spots on the field. “I like playing everywhere; I do play defense for my club team,” said Breander-Carr. “I can play anywhere coach needs me to play; anywhere to help the team.”

In Breander-Carr’s view, the Raiders played well as a team in the tie with Episcopal which saw Hun rally from an early 1-0 deficit and then controlled possession after the Churchmen tied the game 10 minutes into the second half.

“I thought we played pretty well; we are getting a lot better with getting the intensity up toward the game when we really need it,” said Breander-Carr, who scored another goal last Thursday as the Raiders tied East Brunswick 1-1 to move to 2-1-3 on the season.

“I thought we were swinging around the back pretty well and we were connecting in the middle of the field.”

Hun head coach Ken Stevenson liked the way his team showed intensity after falling behind early against Episcopal.

“We have been talking about playing as a team from day one of preseason; maintaining possession and stringing passes together,” said Stevenson.

“When we do that, we play at a pretty high level. When we get frustrated and we get away from it, things fall apart. They are a very strong team. It was nice to see us respond after we gave up a goal early and to come back in pretty short order and get one.”

Having Breander-Carr at full strength is nice for Hun. “It was good to finally see her have a really complete game where she got forward and back,” asserted Stevenson.

“She won loose balls. She followed up on her own shot to score that goal. That pressure has been building and building and so for her to really have a complete game at a time when we are against a good opponent was great timing on her part.”

Sophomore Erica Dwyer also had a good game for the Raiders, scoring their first goal and playing some tough defense.

“Dwyer can cross the ball nicely and she is a tenacious defender,” added Stevenson.

“She moves her feet well; she understands positioning. She understands where to be on the field. She has been one of the most pleasant upsides of the team this year.”

Another upside for Hun has been the consistent effort it has been getting up front from senior forwards and co-captains Angelica “Bama” Tabares and Danielle Beal.

“It is frustrating for Bama because I have asked her to take on some defensive responsibilities which we need and it limits her touches,” said Stevenson.

“So it adds the pressure when she does get those touches to follow through and convert them. She can make the ball dance and then hit it with both feet. She takes our set pieces. Beal is fast and she creates those opportunities where she plays the ball into space and then runs onto it. There are those times when we really need to get numbers forward. Her playing as a target forward has worked reasonably well so far.”

Stevenson is proud of the way his squad has come back from a 5-0 opening day defeat at Montgomery as it beat George 2-0, tied Princeton Day School 3-3, and then edged Germantown Academy 2-1 before facing Episcopal.

“It would have been very easy for panic and frustration to set in after we lost to Montgomery,” said Stevenson, whose team plays at Springside Academy (Pa.) on October 4 before hosting Blair Academy on October 6.

“George was a good win. PDS was, as it always is, a hard fought battle. To have a nice win against Germantown; that was a game that we started to prove to ourselves that we can play this at a high level against some really quality teams. To play well against these guys is equally satisfying. That game could have gone either way at the end. It was a good battle.”

Breander-Carr, for her part, believes that the Raiders have raised the level of their game.

“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” maintained Breander-Carr. “We started off a little slow in preseason; we had a lot of injuries. I think we are coming back out from that now. I think we are getting our groove together. We are meshing and we are starting to feel how each other play a little more.”

CITIZEN KANE: Hun School field hockey player Alex Kane pushes the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, junior defender Kane scored a goal and played well on the back line as Hun topped Pennington 4-1. The Raiders, now 3-1, host Stuart Country Day on October 3 and Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School field hockey team started the season with a 1-0 loss to WW/P-S, it looked like its defense was ahead of the offense.

But the Raider attack seems to have found a rhythm as Hun has bounced back with three straight wins, outscoring its foes 9-1 in that stretch.

Last Friday, the Raiders were clicking on all cylinders as they topped Pennington 4-1.

“We did take a step forward, we moved the ball well,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, reflecting on the win over Pennington that moved the Raiders to 3-1. “We did a good job in the circle defensively, we limited their short corners.”

Quirk likes the good work she is seeing on the offensive end. “We have a nice transition between the defense and the offense,” said Quirk, who got goals from Francesca Bello, Courtney Faulkner, Alex Kane, and Carey Million in the Pennington game. “The midfielders are moving into the circle and getting opportunities.”

The Hun midfield is being sparked by the trio of Olivia Albanese, Julia Blake, and Taylor Havard.

“Olivia Albanese is doing a nice job for us in the midfield,” said Quirk of the senior, who also chipped in an assist last Friday.

“She is the inserter on our short corners. Julia Blake and Taylor Havard are also doing well for us in the midfield.”

Along the forward line, the one-two punch of junior Bello and senior Million is benefitting from the good transition play.

“Bello and Million are doing a good job on the line; they are able to move the ball well and capitalize on opportunities,” asserted Quirk.

“The other girls, Courtney Faulkner, Vicky Leach, Bri Cifelli, and Juliet Kapanjie, are coming in and going to the post well.”

Junior Alex Kane has been coming up big defensively for the Raiders. “Kane is really strong for us on defense,” said Quirk, noting that Liz Mydlowski stepped up at back against Pennington.

“She moves the ball side-to-side and can break up plays. She scored on a penalty stroke against Pennington; it was a good hit.”

Quirk is encouraged by her team’s good start. “I am pleased with how we are playing,” said Quirk, whose team hosts Stuart Country Day on October 3 and Blair Academy on October 6.

“We have some tough games coming up; I hope the girls keep showing the same hunger and intensity.”

September 26, 2012

THROWN FOR A LOSS: Princeton University quarterback Connor Michelson throws a pass in recent action. Last Friday against visiting Georgetown, sophomore Michelson hit on 11-of-22 passes for 143 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 21-20 to the Hoyas on a late field goal. Princeton, now 0-2, heads to New York City this Saturday to play at Columbia (1-1) in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For DiAndre Atwater, getting a shot at playing running back for the Princeton University football team as it hosted Georgetown last Friday night was special on many levels.

Freshman Atwater, who had only seen special teams duty in Princeton’s opening day 17-14 loss at Lehigh, got his first taste of carrying the ball in a college game. To make the evening more memorable, his older brother, junior Stephen Atwater, was on the field at the same time as a Georgetown defensive back.

“I was really excited, especially because my brother was on the other team,” recalled Atwater, who brings a special football lineage to the field along with his brother as their father, Steve, played 11 years in the NFL, including 10 with the Denver Broncos, making eight Pro Bowls in the process.

“I just tried to keep doing my job and doing what I knew best and working hard.”

It didn’t take long for Atwater to do some good work as he ran six yards for a first down in his second carry. On the next series, he made gains of 46 and 27 yards on two pass plays only to see both jaunts called back due to Tiger penalties.

The upbeat Atwater was undeterred. “Everyone makes mistakes out there,” said Atwater. “We knew we just had to correct them on the sidelines and get back out there.”

In the fourth quarter, the 5’8, 205-pound resident of Duluth, Ga. made an electrifying run down the sidelines, dashing 53 yards for a touchdown to put Princeton ahead 20-18 with 14:45 left in the contest.

“I knew the line made a huge hole; it was a read play to the right so when he gave it to me, I knew that I was going to go for at least 10 yards,” recalled Atwater. “Then the safety missed and it was off to the races.”

Unfortunately, Princeton couldn’t hold off the Hoyas as Georgetown put together a 72-yard march in the waning moments of the contest that produced a game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left in a hard-earned 21-20 victory over the Tigers.

While Atwater, who ended up with 92 yards on 15 carries, was disappointed by the final result, he was proud of his contribution.

“We have been working real hard in practice and camp so I was really glad to get out there on the field and show what I could do,” said Atwater.

“A lot of it was the linemen; I can’t take credit for it. A big part of it was them.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was bitterly disappointed to see his team’s good work go for naught in the end.

“You have to make plays to win a game and we didn’t,” said Surace, whose team dropped to 0-2 before a crowd of 6,792 at Princeton Stadium.

“I don’t know what happened at the end but we didn’t get the stop. We should have had them off the field. We had chances to win but we didn’t do it. You have to make the plays when you get the opportunities.”

The manner in which Atwater took advantage of his opportunity was a major bright spot for Princeton in a crushing loss that brought to mind the Tiger men’s basketball team’s heartbreaking 50-49 defeat to Georgetown in the 1989 NCAA tourney.

“We have been excited about DiAndre and those young backs,” said Surace. “You saw last night the next man up theory [in the New York Giants’ 36-7 win over Carolina where reserves made key contributions],” said Surace.

“Akil [Sharp] went down with an injury and Will [Powers] went down and DiAndre’s turn was called. He ran real well. He really gave us a spark and we got Dre [Nelson] in there a little bit. I saw at the end of the game that we had a freshman at running back and two freshmen corners. I am thinking this is like a JV game except that those are mature guys and they can handle it.”

Senior linebacker and co-captain Andrew Starks, who produced a career-high 16 tackles in the Georgetown loss, believes the Tigers will show maturity in bouncing back from the disappointment as they prepare for their Ivy League opener at Columbia on September 29.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we will watch film on Sunday and we will get those mistakes corrected in time for the Ivy League,” said Starks.

“You want to win all the games but those are the games that count. For us to still have a chance at the Ivy championship, that’s what drives us and will help us bounce back from this game.”

In the clash against Georgetown, the Tigers displayed their ability to bounce back as they rallied from an early 3-0 deficit. Princeton took a 7-3 lead as receiver Tom Moak took a wide snap on a field goal attempt and hit Mark Hayes on a 10-yard touchdown pass.

Princeton opened up a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter when Will Powers scored on a two-yard touchdown run to culminate a 12-play 50-yard scoring march.

The Hoyas narrowed the Tigers’ lead to 14-6 on a 26-yard field goal by Matt MacZura with 4:03 left in the first half. Princeton took possession at its own 22-yard line after the ensuing kickoff. On second down, a bad snap started a nightmarish sequence that will haunt the Tigers. Quarterback Connor Michelson failed to handle the snap out of a shotgun formation and the ball squirted into the end zone. Several Tigers had a shot at it but the Hoyas recovered the ball for a touchdown to narrow the gap to 14-12.

Surace took blame for the way his players handled that situation. “A veteran group takes a safety there, you can’t allow a touchdown,” said Surace, whose team lost one other fumble on the evening and committed seven penalties for 70 yards after getting flagged for just one violation in the Lehigh loss.

“That is my fault. We have to be clear in our preparation on that type of play. Young guys try to do too much sometimes.”

The teams traded punts for much of the third quarter before Georgetown broke through a Nick Campanella 7-yard touchdown run to take a 18-14 lead with 17 seconds remaining in the period.

Two plays into the fourth quarter, Atwater took off on his 53-yard touchdown dash and the Tigers forged ahead 20-18.

On its next possession, Princeton drove to the Georgetown 18 but failed to get any points out of the march as a Nolan Bieck 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide.

The teams exchanged punts and Georgetown took over at its own 12 with 5:34 remaining in regulation. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Princeton and converting a 4th and 3, the Hoyas got to the Tiger 16. With 14 seconds left, MacZura hit a 33-yard field goal that proved to be the margin of victory as Georgetown improved to 3-1.

As hard as it might be, Princeton needs to put the Georgetown loss in the rear view mirror as it heads to New York City this Saturday to play at Columbia (1-1) in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

“It is really disappointing; we are going to come back on Sunday and be ready for Columbia,” said Surace. “Columbia is going to be ready for us; we are going to have to play a great game on the road.”

Atwater, for his part, believes that Princeton can come up with a great effort against the Lions.

“We have to correct the mistakes we made and come back hard against Columbia,” said Atwater. “We need to come back with energy and strength and do what we do best.”

SAVING GRACE: Princeton University field hockey goalie Christina Maida goes after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday against second-ranked Syracuse, junior standout Maida made some dazzling stops in an 8-save effort but it wasn’t enough as No. 3 Princeton fell 2-0 to the Orange. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, play at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Kristen Holmes-Winn is never happy when her Princeton University field hockey team loses a game, she saw plenty of positives when the third-ranked Tigers fell 2-0 to No. 2 Syracuse last Sunday.

“By design we had a game yesterday and a game today,” said Tiger head coach Holmes-Winn, whose club had dismantled Yale 8-0 on Saturday to improve to 2-0 in Ivy League play.

“We wanted to play back-to-back to physiologically have that experience. I think we held up physically quite well. I thought our first half today was really good just in terms of how we moved the ball. The finishing stuff will come. There were a lot of really good things from this match that we will take away.”

The skilled teams gave the fans on hand at Bedford Field a demonstration of superb ball movement as the teams generated end-to end-rushes all afternoon. The game was knotted 0-0 at half. Syracuse broke through with a tally on a penalty corner 20 minutes into the second half and then added an insurance goal on a fast break with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

“We knew that Syracuse is a great defensive team and really good on the counterattack and that is exactly what got us,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team fell to 7-1 overall with the loss while Syracuse improved to 9-0.

“They have the ability to really double the ball well and they broke out of their situations and were very effective.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, it was the Orange’s defensive prowess that made the difference in the contest.

“Their ability to get numbers around the ball inside our attacking third and not foul was really the difference,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It is one thing  to defend but to be able to defend and not give anything away is a challenge and they did that really, really well.”

Tasting defeat for the first time of the season stung but Holmes-Winn viewed the result in the context of the bigger picture.

“I don’t really care a whole lot about that,” said Holmes-Winn, referring to Tigers losing their chance for a perfect season.

“We just have to keep tacking away at the areas where we are deficient. That is part of playing great teams, they will challenge your structure and your concentration. They show you individually where the weaknesses are and Syracuse did a great job of that.”

The Tigers showed some fight as senior star Kat Sharkey fired blasts on two consecutive penalty corners 25 minutes into the second half with the Tigers trailing 1-0 at that point.

“That’s how this game is, the opportunities are there,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team held a 6-5 edge in penalty corners while getting outshot 16-10.

“The stats weren’t really far off. We were really pushing there at the end so we were exposed. We were playing pretty aggressively which was a result of that second goal and us stretching out our shape a little bit.”

For Holmes-Winn, the main lessons to draw from the defeat center on being more aggressive on finishing and stretching out opposing defenses.

“The passing combinations through our midfield was just awesome; once we got into the final third, they did a great job of getting players around the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, citing the play of the Reinprecht sisters, senior Katie and junior Julia.

“It was never a situation where we were one-on-one. We need to look a little bit where those numbers are coming from and figure how to stretch those zones out of it.”

With Princeton on track for its eighth straight Ivy League title and 18th in the last 19 years, Holmes-Winn is hoping that the experience gained from battling Syracuse will help the Tigers as they pursue their goal of a first national title.

“You have to be perfect in the league, there is no doubt about that, but when it comes to these non-conference games, the point is to be challenged,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team plays at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2.

“It is always great to win but it is not my main concern right now. If we win and play bad hockey, I am not going to be happy either.”

STEPPING UP: Princeton High field hockey star Emilia Lopez-Ona shoots the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, Lopez-Ona scored the game-winning goal as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over Allentown. The Little Tigers, who moved to 4-1 with a 2-1 loss to Hopewell Valley last Saturday, play at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emilia Lopez-Ona has established herself as one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse program.

Last spring, Lopez-Ona scored 123 points on 99 goals and 24 assists in her sophomore season to help the Little Tigers go 14-4 and advance to the sectional semifinals.

While field hockey is Lopez-Ona’s second sport, she is starting to make a similar impact in a game she picked up just three years ago.

Last Wednesday, the junior forward scored the winning goal with 7:59 remaining in the second half as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over powerful Allentown.

In reflecting on the clutch tally, which came on a feed from sophomore Campbell McDonald, Lopez-Ona said she was just taking care of business.

“Campbell really did the work there; she took it down the whole left side,” recalled Lopez-Ona.

“She kept her eyes up and saw me in the middle and my job is just to hit it backside pipe.”

For Lopez-Ona, refining her skills as a playmaker has been one of her main areas of focus this fall.

“Each season is a new beginning; it is a really nice break from lacrosse,” said Lopez-Ona, who had four assists in PHS’ first three games.

“The thing about field hockey is that assists and goals have the same importance.”

The progress that Lopez-Ona has made reflects the improvement PHS has made collectively as it has gotten off to a 4-1 start this season.

“Last year, I feel like we were a really young team starting to develop,” said Lopez-Ona.

“This year almost all of our starting lineup came back and I feel like we have really matured as a team.”

The Little Tigers showed that maturity in the victory over Allentown as they fought back from a 1-0 first half deficit.

“I think after the timeout at the end of the first half, we really collected ourselves and got a ton of chances,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We kept that momentum into the second half; you could see the step up in the level of play.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson credited Lopez-Ona with helping the Little Tigers step up in their second half rally.

“I think a lot of that spark came from Emilia,” said Serverson. “She really fired up and people feed off of that. When she gets excited and the shots start going, the rest of the team gets excited.”

Serverson was excited about the win over perennial powerhouse Allentown.

“This is one of the key games for us; I am so pleased that we came out with the win,” said Serverson, who got the game-tying goal from senior Vivien Bazarko on another assist by McDonald.

“We didn’t start out really well. We weren’t playing good team defense and we were dumping the ball to their stick. We turned it around and started playing our game. We just started moving the ball and passing stick to stick. We played the passing game that we practice everyday. It was definitely the team I have seen play so far this season.”

In Serverson’s view, her team showed growth by sticking with its game plan. “It is something we have been working on over the season; I think as a program we have to learn to just hang in there and keep playing our game,” said Serverson.

“Things will work out if you just do what you have done everyday in practice.”

With the combination of senior Sydney Watts and sophomore Julia DiTosto anchoring the PHS defense, the Little Tigers can hang with just about anybody.

“They are the core of the team,” asserted Serverson of Watts and DiTosto. “Without the two of them and their composure, their vision, and their ability to transition from defense to offense, we would not be doing as well as we are doing. They are definitely key.”

Bazarko and McDonald have emerged as key contributors for the Little Tigers.

“Vivien is one of our captains, she communicates very well on the field,” added Serverson.

“I think she gives great constructive feedback in the moment when she is playing with the other girls. Campbell is very consistent when she is on and today she was on. She puts her heart into it and moves to the ball.”

Serverson is hoping that her team can show even more heart collectively.

“I think this is going to be a wake-up call,” said Serverson, whose team plays at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2.

“The first half of the season wasn’t as challenging as this game. I think this win today showed them that they need to work harder in practice. I think they just need a little more confidence.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that PHS possesses an unselfish mindset which should help it get through the challenges ahead.

“We work together, that is probably my favorite thing about this team,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We pick ourselves up and just work together. Every connection, every goal, it is not just one person doing the work.”

NET WORTH: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas makes a play at the net in a match last fall. Senior first doubles standout and team captain Cahill-Sanidas has provided good play and leadership as PHS has gotten off to a 7-0 start this season. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on September 27, play at Nottingham on September 28, and then start play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With six seniors having graduated from a Princeton High girls’ tennis team that won the Central Jersey Group III title last year, Sarah Hibbert feels like she is back to square one.

“We are starting fresh with a lot of young players,” said head coach Hibbert, noting that nine of 18 players in the program are new.

“You forget that you have to explain things to them. Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas] and Lindsay [Eberhart] are the two seniors and they are really working hard to get the group together, doing a lot of team building stuff.”

In Hibbert’s view, the newcomers can build on the program’s winning tradition.

“It is also exciting,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to a 16-2 record last fall on their way to the state semifinals. “The last senior group did a lot of good things and I think this group can as well.”

PHS has a special player at first singles in freshman Christina Rosca. “Christina has a lot of experience; she has a complete repertoire of skills,” asserted Hibbert.

“She is a solid baseliner who is not afraid to go to the net. She works with private coaches outside of the team; she is always looking to get better.”

The Little Tigers boast another freshman standout, Chenchen Wang, who figures to give the team good work at second singles.

“Chenchen is very steady from the baseline; she is willing to stay in long rallies,” said Hibbert. “She is good at mixing up things and challenging an opponent’s game.”

At third singles, sophomore Katelyn Hojelbane appears to be ready for the challenge of playing at the varsity level.

“Katelyn was on JV last year; it was hard to crack the varsity lineup with the six seniors,” said Hibbert. “She is a good, steady player who has good groundstrokes.”

The steady presence of Cahill-Sanidas will be important as she pairs up with sophomore Rory Lewis at first doubles.

“Maddie has been our rock, both in terms of her play at doubles and as a captain,” maintained Hibbert.

“She is a great leader; she works very hard to make everyone comfortable. She is a great doubles player. I think Maddie and Rory have similar styles. Rory is also aggressive but younger. As she works her way into the lineup, it is good for her to have Maddie as her mentor.”

Eberhart and junior Allison Hubert should add a lot to the PHS lineup for their spot at second doubles.

“They played together on JV last year,” said Hibbert. “They have complementary styles and they are used to each other. I think they will make a smooth transition into the second doubles spot.”

Based on the early returns, it looks like the young PHS squad is making a seamless transition to the varsity level as the Little Tigers have produced a 7-0 start.

“It is always important to get off to a good start with counties and states coming up so quick,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Ewing 5-0 last Monday and hosts WW/P-S on September 27, plays at Nottingham on September 28 and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“It is a particularly important for a young team to get off to a good start to get some confidence. We opened with Hopewell Valley and won 4-1 with each of the wins coming in straight sets. They have six seniors and I was not sure how our young players would hold up. I was thrilled with the way that went.”

If PHS can keep progressing, there could be some thrills on the horizon.

“I think we have a lot of potential,” said Hibbert “We have some tough weeks coming up with WW/P-N, WW/P-S, counties and states. I am happy that the girls are having fun. On a new team that is getting introduced to high school tennis, that is important.”

ON THE RUN: Princeton High running back Javon Pannell looks for running room in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior Pannell rushed for 28 yards and made two receptions in a losing cause as PHS fell 33-0 to visiting WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, now 1-2, host Hamilton on September 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Joe Gargione went on the field twice during the third quarter last Saturday to read the riot act to his Princeton High football team as it hosted WW/P-S.

With the Little Tigers trailing the Pirates 14-0 early in the second half, head coach Gargione took advantage of a stoppage in play to go in the offensive huddle and tell his players in no uncertain terms to show more passion.

Later in the quarter, Gargione got in the faces of his players in a defensive huddle with the same message.

While the Little Tigers responded with some stretches of inspired play, they were ultimately worn down by WW/P-S in losing 33-0.

“I tried to lay into the kids to get something going,” said Gargione, reflecting on his third quarter pep talks in the defeat that dropped PHS to 1-2.

“Somebody has got to step up and show a little more fire. We made too many mistakes to overcome; they just outplayed us.”

With PHS having not scored offensively since the first half of the Hightstown game on September 14, Gargione is concerned about mistakes on that side of the ball.

“It is everything,” said Gargione, assessing the offensive drought after a day when his team was outgained 153 yards to 21 yards on the ground and 181-74 in the air.

“It is missed assignments, missed blocks and even minor things like coming out of the huddle in the wrong formation and having to switch back. That just can’t happen.”

While PHS made some good things happen defensively, it also struggled on that side of the ball.

“The defense started off well and then we had a hard time covering the simple flat,” said Gargione. “It wasn’t like he was lasering it in there.”

In Gargione’s view, his squad is at a crossroads having suffered two straight lopsided defeats in the wake of an inspiring 27-21 win over Northern Burlington on opening day.

“We have showed we can play; I just don’t want them to be content with that first win,” said Gargione, whose team hosts Hamilton on September 29.

“We have to turn it around now; this is a turning point for us. We have to turn the season around come Monday. We need to learn from our mistakes and go from there.”

If PHS is to turn things around, their veteran players will have to show the way. “We have to turn to our seniors. They have to be the ones to care,” asserted Gargione.

“If they send out the wrong message, the underclassmen don’t know any better.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Alexa Soltesz controls the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore striker Soltesz contributed a goal and two assists as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, now 2-2-2, play at Rutgers Prep on September 27, host Blair Academy on September 29, and then play at Peddie on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexa Soltesz may be just a sophomore but she knows the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team is depending on her to provide scoring punch.

With high-scoring forward Janie Smukler having graduated, the Panthers need the skilled striker Soltesz to be a productive finisher.

“My coach [Pat Trombetta] and I talked before the season that I had a big position to fill,” said Soltesz.

“I think I am doing a pretty good job with it but she was a really big loss. She was a great player.”

This past Friday, Soltesz did some pretty good things, scoring a goal and assisting on two others as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2.

In reflecting on her goal, which opened the scoring late in the first half, Soltesz acknowledged that she poached a tally away from fellow sophomore Kylie Kieffer.

“I saw my teammate Kylie coming onto the goal; she called me off while I was running but I kind of got in her way,” said Soltesz.

“I feel a little bad about it but I am happy to put one on the board; it really got our team up.”

Soltesz did pay Kieffer back, setting her up on the Panthers’ second goal. “I saw her there; I owed her one,” said a smiling Soltesz, recalling the tally which put PDS up 2-1.

On the team’s final tally, which gave the Panthers a 3-1 advantage, Soltesz booted a towering corner kick that Kirsten Kuzmicz blasted home. “I just started to take corners last game and it is working,” said Soltesz.

After not scoring a goal in PDS’ first four contests, Soltesz believes she is starting to get in a groove after breaking the ice with a tally in a 3-3 tie with Hun last week.

“I think I was in kind of a slump,” said Soltesz. “One gets me going, as my father always says.”

Playing with her twin sister, Stefany, a star sweeper for the Panthers helps get Soltesz going.

“We have been playing together since we were two years old,” said Soltesz. “We used to play offense together.”

PDS head coach Trombetta liked the way his squad played better and better in the George game.

“We started a little shaky; our decision-making wasn’t the best for the first 20 minutes,” said Trombetta, whose team improved to 2-2-2 with the win over the Cougars.

“We settled down as the game went on. I think in the second half we took complete control of the game. The possession play was better; we got more girls involved in the play.”

In Trombetta’s view, Soltesz is getting settled into her role at striker. “Alexa is starting to pick it up; she started off slowly,”  said Trombetta.

“I think the game against Hun where she scored on a corner broke the ice for her. The first goal is the toughest so that opened it up for her. She is doing really well now.”

Sophomore midfielder Kieffer has been opening things up for the Panthers.

“I thought Kylie Kieffer had an excellent game for us today; she had one goal and one assist,” said Trombetta.

“She is a player we had on defense last year but this year we have moved her up to midfield because she has great touch with the ball and excellent decision-making. She was placing some nice through balls to our outside mids and then she scored the go-ahead goal.”

PDS is getting some excellent play from senior forward Kelsey Scarlett. “Kelsey creates a lot of the opportunities out there,” said Trombetta.

“She is a person we can move around a lot on the field because she is very versatile. Having her on the field with her senior experience helps out a lot, she has just got a great attitude.”

The foundation for the Panthers’ solid start has been some good work at the defensive end of the field.

“For the most part, our defense has been playing really well,” said Trombetta.

“Brit Murray is a solid defender; we always put her on the other team’s biggest weapon. She does a great job as does Stef [Soltesz] at sweeper. Kelly Tarcza coming from Steinert is a physical player out there. You need a presence like that on the field sometimes.”

PDS needs to fine-tune things as it faces some big challenges in the next week when it plays at Rutgers Prep on September 27, hosts Blair Academy on September 29, and then plays at Peddie on October 2.

“I think our decision-making and spacing has to get better,” said Trombetta. “We have just completed one-third of our season and I am looking for our composure to get better. Our possession has to get better.”

Trombetta believes his players have what it takes to get better. “We have a great group of girls; they are hardworking,” said Trombetta.

“I have complete confidence that they will be able to handle the tough stretch that is ahead of us.”

Soltesz, for her part, shares Trombetta’s confidence in the group’s prospects.

“I am really proud of us,” said Soltesz. “We did a great job today. I love this team.”

For the Hun School girls’ tennis team, this fall figures to be one of transition.

“I am looking at this season as an opportunity to rebuild,” said longtime Hun head coach Joan Nuse, whose team opened the season by losing 5-0 to Montgomery High and falling 3-2 to Springside Academy last Saturday before getting into the win column by topping Pennington 4-1 on Monday. “We graduated a lot of seniors. We have a lot of new faces.”

Hun is going with a familiar face at first singles in returning junior Shayna Glassberg.

“Shayna is looking to build on last year,” said Nuse of Glassberg, who played second singles for Hun in 2011. “She played hard in our first match against Montgomery; she didn’t give up in the second set.”

Nuse is looking for some hard play from sophomore Stephanie Taylor. “Steph is a great athlete; I am glad she chose to come out for tennis rather than soccer,” said Nuse, noting that Taylor plays club soccer.

“She showed perseverance in the Montgomery match; she was running around like a maniac.”

At third singles, Hun is welcoming back junior Lauren Kotler. “Lauren played third singles last year,” said Nuse, who got a straight sets win from Kotler in the victory over Pennington.

“She was thinking of not playing this year; it is good to have her back. She makes it fun for everybody else.’

It is good for Hun to have seniors Cansu Cabeci and Lesley Cai at first doubles. Last fall, Cai starred at first doubles while Cabeci is moving up after playing second doubles in 2011.

“They are most experienced doubles players; they are learning to play together,” said Nuse of the pair who breezed to a 6-0, 6-1 win in the Pennington match. “They both have different strengths. Cansu is a solid baseliner while Lesley likes the net.”

The second doubles pair of Olivia Hartman and Lily Razavi figures to give the Raiders some solid play. “They know each other from playing together on JV last year,” said Nuse.

In Nuse’s view, her team should be playing better and better as the fall unfolds.

“I am looking for us to be better at the end than in the beginning,” asserted Nuse, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on September 27, plays at Stuart Country Day on September 29, and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“We only had three girls there for a lot of the preseason so that makes it harder at the start. A lot of the girls were coming from foreign countries.”

AIR SHOW: Hun School quarterback Blake Searfoss airs out a pass last Saturday as the Raiders hosted Poly Prep (N.Y.) Post-graduate Searfoss connected on five touchdown passes to help Hun post a 47-28 victory over the Blue Devils. The Raiders, now 1-1, are next in action when they host the Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While lacrosse may be Blake Searfoss’ first sporting love, football is starting to grow on him.

Searfoss, the all-time assists leader for Hunterdon Central, was set to play college lax but then he got to start at quarterback last fall for the Red Devils.

As a result, Searfoss put his lax plans on hold and opted to do a post-graduate year at the Hun School to focus on football.

“I was going to play lacrosse and then I realized that I wanted to do the football thing,” said Searfoss. “By that time, it was too late to get an offer. That is why I came to Hun.”

Last Saturday, Searfoss showed that he may have a bright future in football, passing for five touchdowns and 212 yards as Hun rolled past visiting Poly Prep (N.Y.) 47-28.

In the wake of suffering a tough season-opening 17-14 defeat at Seton Hall Prep on September 15, Searfoss and the Raiders were primed to break loose.

“After the loss, we just had to go back to work,” said Searfoss. “We had a real nice week of practice; everyone was working real hard. This was a new game and we couldn’t dwell on last week. We came out today and played hard. Everyone showed a lot of heart; I thought we had a great day.”

The Raiders showed great balance, mixing the pass and run effectively. “Today, they both opened up each other real well,” said Searfoss.

“When we started passing, it opened up the run. When we started running a lot, that opened up the play action. We had a pretty balanced set coming into the week and we knew that we should probably be able to do both.”

Searfoss opened up the Poly Prep defense as he connected on touchdown bombs of 71 and 48 yards to sophomore Christopher Sharp.

“We were working this summer,” said Searfoss of Sharp. “I know he is a good player; he is just young. He has got wheels. We were working during the week and we connected a couple of times today. It was real nice.”

Hun head coach Dave Dudeck had a nice feeling about the effort he got from his players in the win over Poly Prep.

“Our numbers are very thin; that is no secret,” said Dudeck. “On a hot day when most of your kids are going both ways and playing on special teams; our kids came up with a phenomenal, phenomenal effort. They showed so much heart.”

The Raiders produced a superior effort on offense as Searfoss’ heroics in the air were augmented by a balanced ground attack featuring Kylan Baker, Chris Cardinali, and Abdul-Malik Majeed.

“We just felt we got into a rhythm offensively and that we had a counter to what they would show us defensively,” said Dudeck.

“It worked out. But don’t give too much credit to the coaches and the play calling, it is the kids on the field.”

Searfoss is developing a good rhythm in triggering the Hun attack. “Blake has a bit of that loose swagger,” said Dudeck.

“He is a fun kid. He likes to sling it and get after it. We only have two PGs with him and Greg Golden. They have come in and have just fit in great with our team.”

Dudeck had fun watching Sharp produce a breakout performance. “Today was Sharpie’s coming out party,” said Dudeck.

“He had a big day for us. He is a young sophomore; he has a ton of potential. He is just learning how to play football. His future is bright. He is a great kid too. He listens and he is easily coached and he has a great attitude.”

If Hun is going to keep in the winning track, it is going to need to display a hard-nosed attitude.

“We are going to be a team that has to grow and mature,” said Dudeck, whose team is off this Saturday and returns to action when it hosts Blair Academy on October 6.

“We are not the type of team that can just show up and win football games. Every week we have to work hard and watch film. We have to understand; we have to execute.”

Searfoss, for his part, has reached a good understanding of how the Hun program works.

“Everybody works so hard here; we don’t have that many guys but everyone is working their butts off everyday,” said Searfoss.

“No. 5 [Golden] and I are the only PGs; they brought us right in and showed us the way. We meshed together pretty well. We have a good bunch of guys.”

September 19, 2012

OPENING MOVE: Princeton University freshman football player Anthony Gaffney looks for an opening last Saturday in Princeton’s 17-14 opening day loss at Lehigh. Gaffney, a former Pennington School standout, made a solid debut, seeing time at defensive back, receiver, and on kick returns. The Tigers trailed 17-0 at half before scoring 14 unanswered points in the second half to put a scare into the 13th-ranked Mountain Hawks. The Tigers will look to get into the win column this Friday evening when they host Georgetown (2-1) in their home opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team started its season by falling behind 13th-ranked Lehigh 17-0 at halftime last Saturday, it looked like the same old story for a Tiger program that has posted two straight 1-9 campaigns.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace wasn’t pleased as he trudged into the locker room with his team at a sun-splashed Goodman Stadium.

“We did not come out and play well in the first half; we struggled up front and all around,” said Surace, whose team was outgained 285 yards to 40 in the half and managed only two first downs.

“They did a great job of getting off their blocks through the first half and we weren’t really giving ourselves a chance. Defensively we were on the field way too long and we struggled on third down.”

But stunningly, the Tigers ended the afternoon by having a chance to win the game as they scored 14 unanswered points in the second half and had the ball near midfield with 3:15 remaining in regulation and down by three.

Lehigh, though, held the Tigers and was able to maintain possession after that as it hung on for a 17-14 victory before a crowd of 7,346 in improving to 3-0.

Surace credited the team’s seniors with holding things together in the face of the Lehigh onslaught.

“The best thing is that some veteran guys kept this thing where there was no panic,” said Surace.

“I felt in the past that some games that were like this snowballed and there was anxiety and a 17-0 game turned into a blowout. We came out in the second half and did a real good job of getting some control of the football and getting some field position. We have a real good group of seniors on defense. We have such high expectations for those guys and they really did a good job. We talked to them about the word believe before the game but I didn’t feel like we really did and then they came together, it was nice to see. Lehigh is a great team but you know what, we can play football.”

Senior running back Akil Sharp exemplified the progress in the tale of two halves as he ended the afternoon with 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns after getting just 15 yards on 10 carries in the first half.

“I think we were just coming together as a team” said Sharp. “Just like what coach was talking about, we came out in the second half and the team was really believing. From there, as a team we got our blocks down. We started to get on the same page.”

Sophomore quarterback Conner Michelson, who got the starting nod after a preseason battle with classmate Quinn Epperly and freshman Kedric Bostic, acknowledged that the Tiger offense needed to give defense a rest.

“The offense started to click better, we saw from the first half that we needed to get the team going,” said Michelson, who hit on 14-of-30 passes for 103 yards in his first college start.

“We kept the defense on the field way too long. That is on me, I have got to get first downs for this team. I have to get the team rolling.”

One of the leaders of the defense, senior co-captain Mike Catapano, liked the way his unit came up big down the stretch when it had a chance to catch its breath.

“When we came out of the locker room in the second half, you started to see those big plays on third down, the stuffed runs, things like that,” said Catapano. “We just have to be more consistent with the big plays.”

In the early stages of the contest, it looked like the Tigers were going to get run out of the stadium by the two-time defending Patriot League champions. After the teams traded punts in the first four possessions of the contest, Lehigh went on the march. Mixing the run and pass, the Mountain Hawks drove 58 yards and went ahead 7-0 after a five-yard touchdown run by Zach Barket.

Princeton nearly got on the board in the waning minutes of the quarter after recovering a muffed punt deep in Lehigh territory. The Tigers got to the Mountain Hawk seven-yard line but were stymied when they went for it on a fourth and one.

The Mountain Hawks dominated the second quarter, taking a 10-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal by Jake Peery and then going up 17-0 after an 59-yard march that culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Keith Sherman.

In the third quarter, the Tigers kept Lehigh pinned in their territory as they tried to rally from the 17-0 halftime deficit. After its first three possessions ended with punts, Princeton started moving late in the quarter. With Sharp catching fire, the Tigers marched through the Lehigh defense. Sharp gained 34 yards on the last three plays of the drive, including a 13-yard touchdown gallop, as Princeton narrowed the margin to 17-6. The extra point attempt was blocked

Minutes later, the kicking game helped Princeton as it recovered another mishandled punt. Starting at the Lehigh 28, the Tigers cashed in this time with Sharp scoring on a one-yard plunge. Michelson then hit Roman Wilson in the end zone for a two-point conversion as Princeton narrowed the gap to 17-14.

The Tigers got the ball one more time and were forced to punt. Lehigh took possession with 2:38 left and never relinquished it, converting on a third down and 11 as tight end Dylan Colgate made a 27-yard reception with just over two minutes remaining to seal the deal.

While Surace was heartened by his team’s rally, he made it clear that another loss was not acceptable.

“There is going to be some attaboys and good efforts and everything else,” said Surace.

“For us to improve as a team, that can’t be the case. It’s got to go beyond the great effort from the hanging in there to winning a game that we gave ourselves an opportunity to. We made some mistakes at the end and we couldn’t get the ball back.”

With the Tigers hosting Georgetown (2-1) this Friday in its home opener, Surace is looking for his players to clean up those mistakes.

“The big thing is that I told them in the locker room last year is last year and unfortunately we weren’t able to turn it around,” said Surace, whose team stumbled to a 34-9 loss to Bucknell last fall after playing well in a 34-22 opening day loss to Lehigh.

“We have a short week this week, we play on Friday night. Tomorrow is the day that we start to correct errors. Whether we were able to make one more play at the end of the game and come back or not, there was going to be a lot of corrections. I am sure if you ask coach [Lehigh coach Andy Coen], they made a lot of corrections from week one to week two and they are playing better right now. It’s just the nature of it so we are going to have to do that and do a great job.”

Sharp, for his part, believes that Princeton’s second half effort shows that the program is on the verge of turning things around.

“I think that it is just a tribute to us continuing to work hard and to push toward getting this thing on the right path,” said Sharp.

BOOTING UP: Princeton University sophomore soccer star Julian Griggs prepares to boot the ball up the field in recent action. Last Sunday, Griggs and the Tigers broke a three-game losing streak as they edged Villanova 1-0. Princeton, now 2-3, hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting nationally ranked Georgetown last Friday evening, the Princeton University men’s soccer team seemed overmatched in the early going.

The Tigers were outshot 10-4 by the No. 12 Hoyas and trailed 1-0 at intermission.

“We had a hard time in the first half,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow. “We played a 4-4-2 in the first half and they stretched us out pretty well. I didn’t think that we got our back line up high enough and there was too much room for them to play in the midfield.”

Looking to stem the tide, Barlow made a key adjustment after halftime. “In the second half we went with a 4-3-3 with Thomas Sanner all the way up, Julian Griggs and Cameron Porter out wide, and we put three guys in the middle,” said Barlow.

“It definitely made it harder for them to keep possession in the middle. I thought Pat O’Neil, Matt Sanner, and Myles McGinley did a good job of plugging holes and I thought we took control of the game.”

The Tigers outshot Georgetown 13-4 over the last 45 minutes of the game but were unable to find the back of the net as they fell 1-0.

Still, Barlow drew positives from the team’s second half performance. “This was a big step forward for our team,” said Barlow.

“I thought we got on the same page with how we were going to try to play defense and it went much better. I think we had a few chances that we should have put away. We looked like a soccer team in the second half.”

Two days later, the Tigers built on that second half effort as they edged Villanova 1-0 on a goal by Thomas Sanner.

Freshman forward Sanner has made an immediate impact for the Tigers. “Thomas is a good target up there,” said Barlow, whose team improved to 2-3 with the win on Sunday.

“He has got good feet. He can look to get behind the defense but he can also look to make passes.”

Senior co-captain Mark Linnville helped keep the Princeton defense tight in the Georgetown game. “He is steady back there,” said Barlow of Linnville, a three-time first-team All- Ivy League performer.

“He is a leader; he keeps the back line together. I think he was a little cautious in the first half and kept the line too deep. In the second half, he pushed the line up higher. They didn’t get behind us and I think we now have a little more confidence that we can put our line up higher and play more in their end.”

In Barlow’s view, having started the season by playing five teams from the Big East (Seton Hall, St. John’s and Rutgers in addition to Georgetown and Villanova) should give the Tigers confidence going forward.

“I am always a fan of playing against good teams and the Big East has a lot of good teams,” said Barlow, whose team hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.

“When you only have 17 games to play in a year, you want to play good teams. I know they start earlier. I know they have had a lot more games than us but we can’t focus on that. Georgetown had played six games, a few scrimmages, and have been together a lot longer than us. In the first half, especially, they looked like they are further along but this is how you make progress and I thought we did make some progress.”