November 27, 2013
STROKES OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand on the way to taking the title at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament. Sophomore Rosca went on to win the NJSIAA girls’ singles championship, earning the first state singles crown in program history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In reflecting on the win, Rosca attributed it to a more mature mentality on the court. “I think my mental state and attitude made a really big difference,” said Rosca, who had rallied after losing the first set in the semifinals to make the title match.

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

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

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

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

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

Top Male Performer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Newcomers

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

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

Mills turned out to be very good this fall for the Panthers. With Mills asserting herself as the team’s top runner from day one, the Panthers posted dual meet wins over Pennington, Hun, Stuart, Rutgers Prep, and Hamilton and placed eighth in the Varsity E girls’ race at the Shore Coaches Invitational. Mills placed 18th in the Shore meet, clocking a time of 21:55 on the 3.1 mile course at Holmdel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Coaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIVING IT UP: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Braender-Carr boots the ball up the field last Wednesday in the state Prep A championship game. Senior defender Braender-Carr and the sixth-seeded Raiders fought hard in falling 2-0 to top-seeded and 11-time champion Pennington. Last Saturday, NYU-bound Braender-Carr ended her Hun career by picking up an assist as the Raiders topped  Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 in their regular season finale to post a 7-12-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING IT UP: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Braender-Carr boots the ball up the field last Wednesday in the state Prep A championship game. Senior defender Braender-Carr and the sixth-seeded Raiders fought hard in falling 2-0 to top-seeded and 11-time champion Pennington. Last Saturday, NYU-bound Braender-Carr ended her Hun career by picking up an assist as the Raiders topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 in their regular season finale to post a 7-12-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Braender-Carr’s senior season with the Hun School girls’ soccer team got off to a rocky start.

Hampered by injuries and with young players taking their lumps as they were thrust into key roles, Hun lost its first seven games this fall.

As the lone senior captain on the squad, Braender-Carr did her best to pump up the team’s younger players during the early losing streak.

“I just tried to keep them positive after those first couple of losses,” said Braender-Carr, a defender who helped trigger Hun’s offense with her deft corner kicks and penetrating runs up the field.

“I was trying to keep them working, trying to figure out what I could do to motivate them.”

Braender-Carr’s influence paid dividends as Hun caught fire in mid-October, propelled by a pair of wins over Lawrenceville in a week.

“The wins over Lawrenceville really got us going,” said Braender-Carr. “I think it just kept building and building. We really started to want to win, the drive got bigger. We got some players back that were injured, Ashley Maziarz and Jess Sacco.”

That drive to win spurred Hun on a stirring run in the state Prep A tournament as the sixth-seeded Raiders topped No. 3 Lawrenceville and No. 2 Peddie on the way to the title game last Wednesday against top-seeded Pennington School.

While Hun fell 2-0 to 11-time champion Pennington in the championship game, Braender-Carr had no qualms with the effort produced by the Raiders.

“I think we played really tough; we hung in there,” said Braender-Carr in assessing the contest that was knotted 0-0 at halftime.

“I think we had more shots in the first half on goal, some good chances. We had a few breakdowns in the back obviously. We didn’t stay on our marks enough on the 18 when they scored their first goal and on the other one they showed a great counterattack off the corner kick.”

Despite trailing 2-0 in the waning moments of the contest, Hun kept attacking to the final whistle. “Ashley had a chance off my corner; I had a shot at the end,” said Braender-Carr.

“We really worked well as a team defensively, stopping them at the box. I just thought we played our hearts out.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac thought that her team showed plenty of heart in defeat.

“We knew it was going to be a really tough matchup,” said Hallac. “We hung with them. I thought the first half was a really good battle. They had more looks but I didn’t think they had great looks, it was nothing too dangerous so I felt good heading into the second half.”

Pennington, though, took charge in the second half, going up 1-0 with 32:30 remaining in regulation and then tacking another tally with 5:25 left.

“Giving up that goal changed the momentum,” said Hallac. “We were down for a few minutes there and we were able to claw back a little but the second one kind of sealed it. The girls should really be proud of the way they played.”

Hallac is proud of how her squad rebounded from its 0-7 start. “It makes you wonder what could have happened if everyone was healthy all year,” said Hallac, whose team topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 last Saturday in its regular season finale to end the fall at 7-12-1.

“But you know what, you have all of these freshmen who wouldn’t get the experience that they did and that not only helped us at the end of this season, but it is going to be a huge help going forward.”

Hun’s late surge has Hallac looking forward to 2014. “I think the way that we finished the season, they should see what is there for us in the future and keep looking towards that,” said Hallac.

“We need to keep building towards that because we basically bring almost everyone back. There is no reason that we can’t be back here next year.”

It will be difficult not having Brander-Carr back on the team. “It is hard to even put it in words; Olivia has done such a great job as a leader on the field, off the field in so many ways,” said Hallac, whose other senior on the team this year was Tanya Clark.

“She does a lot of those intangible things that coaches just love to have in their players, but especially in their captains. We are going to feel her loss tremendously. She has really done so much for this program; we are going to miss her.”

Braender-Carr, for her part, loved the way things came together in her final days with the program.

“The last three or four weeks have really been good; that’s how I wanted my whole senior season to go,” said Braender-Carr, who will be playing for the NYU women’s soccer team next fall.

“I am glad I got to spend time with this group of girls; this is the closest bond we have had in all the grades in the four years I have been here.”

November 6, 2013
MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn ­Epperly puts up a pass in action earlier this season. Last Saturday against visiting Cornell, Epperly produced one of the most remarkable performances in Tiger and Ivy League history as the junior lefty completed his first 29 passes of a contest won 53-20 by Princeton. Epperly’s completion streak to start the game broke the previous NCAA Division 1 record of Richie Williams of Appalachian State, who completed his first 28 passes against Furman on October 9, 2004. The Tigers, who improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 Ivy to take sole possession of first place in the league standings, play at Penn (4-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on November 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn ­Epperly puts up a pass in action earlier this season. Last Saturday against visiting Cornell, Epperly produced one of the most remarkable performances in Tiger and Ivy League history as the junior lefty completed his first 29 passes of a contest won 53-20 by Princeton. Epperly’s completion streak to start the game broke the previous NCAA Division 1 record of Richie Williams of Appalachian State, who completed his first 28 passes against Furman on October 9, 2004. The Tigers, who improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 Ivy to take sole possession of first place in the league standings, play at Penn (4-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on November 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The press box at Princeton Stadium was unusually crowded last Saturday, teeming with NFL scouts in town to get a closer look at Cornell’s record-setting senior quarterback Jeff Mathews.

But by the end of the afternoon, the focus was squarely on Princeton University junior quarterback Quinn Epperly, who turned heads as he produced one of the most remarkable performances in Tiger and Ivy League history.

The junior lefty completed his first 29 passes of the contest to break the NCAA Division I record set by Richie Williams of Appalachian State, who completed his first 28 passes against Furman on October 9, 2004.

Ending the game completing 32-of-35 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns, Epperly triggered a 53-20 rout of the Big Red before a crowd of 7,206 as Princeton improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 Ivy, taking sole possession of first place in the league standings.

Early in the afternoon, Epperly had the sense that he was in a groove. “At halftime one of the other quarterbacks came up and asked if we had an incompletion and I said I couldn’t really remember one,” recalled Epperly.

“I kind of knew that we were in a zone throwing the ball. The receivers made some excellent catches and the lineman played well, I don’t think I had pressure on me hardly all day.”

In the third quarter Epperly realized that he was closing in on a record but he tried to block it out.

“They said it over the loudspeaker in the middle of a drive and I was like I can’t think about that,” said a smiling Epperly. “We have to move on and get a score here. I wasn’t too concerned about it.”

Afterward, Epperly, whose playing style is reminiscent of Tim Tebow, sounded sentiments similar to the former Florida star and Heisman Trophy winner.

“It is an honor,” said Epperly who rushed for a team-high 69 yards and three touchdowns.

“I have been truly blessed, especially today. I think on a couple of those I got a little bit of help from receivers. It is just an awesome thing to be a part of and I’m happy that we got the win.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was thrilled to see the history unfold before his eyes.

“You could tell he was on fire,” said Surace of Epperly, who was named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for a record third straight week and was featured prominently on ESPN’s SportsCenter throughout Saturday night.

“I looked at the stats, our long run for the day was a 21-yard run by Bostic in the fourth quarter; our long throw was a 20-yarder to Roman Wilson. It was just unbelievable execution. They weren’t going to give up big plays and he just kept hitting perfect drive routes, dig routes, and slant routes. It looked like pass on air where the ball doesn’t hit the ground. And that is really something to behold, especially because the guy on the other side is as good a quarterback and thrower as has ever played in the Ivy League.”

The Tigers drew inspiration from another historic Ivy League figure as the program celebrated the recently deceased Dick Kazmaier ’52, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner over the weekend.

“Our whole team went to the celebration yesterday and that was just unbelievable and you still have chills,” said Surace.

“When you walk out at halftime, I was in tears to see all those guys out on the field.”

Princeton needed to stop Cornell’s history-making quarterback Mathews, who came into the game with an Ivy career record of 10,417 passing yards, in order to earn the victory and drop the Big Red to 1-6 overall, 0-4 Ivy.

“You are always holding your breath with him because he is so good,” said Surace of Mathews.

“I thought our pressure was good. I thought our coverage was really good. We were really tight and we forced him into a lot of really short passes. To hold him to 230 yards and sack him seven times; that was really good.”

Princeton senior defensive lineman Matt Landry, who ended the day with four tackles and 1.5 sacks, said the Tigers turned up the heat on Mathews in order to contain him.

“Obviously Jeff Mathews is an outstanding quarterback, not only in the Ivy League, I am sure he will have a great career in the NFL,” said Landry.

“Up front as defensive linemen, our goals are always to contain the quarterback but to also put as much pressure on him as possible to make him feel uncomfortable at all times. The defensive backfield and linebackers had great coverage and we were able to get after him quite a bit today.”

In Landry’s view, the team’s defensive unit is reaching a new comfort level. “I think this defense is clicking on all -cylinders,” asserted Landry.

“Each and every week, we just strive to do our best and improve on our mistakes from the previous week. We always focus on doing our best on every single play. I think we are just excellent, all the way from the defensive front back to the secondary.”

The Princeton offense was clicking from the start on Saturday, converting an interception by Caraun Reid into an early touchdown. The Tigers marched 31 yards on six plays and took a 7-0 lead after a 7-yard touchdown pass from Epperly to Roman Wilson.

After a Cornell field goal, Epperly excelled with his feet and arm, rushing for 27 yards and hitting three passes in a drive culminated by his one-yard plunge as the Tigers went up 15-3.

The Big Red responded with a field goal and then scored a touchdown as Connor Michelsen fumbled after a sack and the loose ball was taken into the end zone by Cornell’s Justin Harris.

With its lead narrowed to 15-13, Princeton broke the game open as Epperly scored his second TD of the game to culminate an 80-yard scoring march and then ran for a third with 1:01 left in the half as Princeton built a 29-13 lead heading into intermission.

The rout was on in the third quarter as Epperly hit Seth DeValve for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put Princeton up 36-13. On the next Tiger possession, Epperly found Wilson in the end zone for a 17-yard scoring strike as the lead increased to 43-13.

In the fourth quarter, Princeton hit the 50-point mark for the fourth time this season, tacking on 10 points with a Nolan Bieck field goal and a 12-yard touchdown run by Joe Rhattigan.

In Landry’s view, it was important for the Tigers to follow up their 51-48 triple overtime win at Harvard last week with another triumph, noting that the Tigers dropped three out of four games in 2012 after a stirring 39-34 win over the Crimson.

“Obviously it was frustrating to do that,” said Landry, referring to last year’s shaky finish,

“It leaves a bad taste in your mouth coming off that season. But as a team we are focused on our game plan and being the best we can be every single week.”

With the Tigers headed to Philadelphia for a critical clash at Penn (4-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy), Epperly is not going to let the accolades from his record-breaking effort distract him from the task at hand.

“We focus in on what we can control, coming to practice every week, working hard, and trying to win the remaining games,” said Epperly, who has passed for 18 touchdowns and rushed for 14 more this fall to help the Tigers win six straight since an opening day loss to Lehigh.

“I think a lot of it is just a credit to our hard work and effort, that is the main thing we pride ourselves each week at practice and that carries over to games. I think even sometimes when we don’t execute perfectly, we try to play very fast and that helps a lot to fix some errors. I think a lot of guys have bought into that and it has turned into a 6-game winning streak.”

MEN AT WORK: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson, right, makes a point at a recent practice as junior guard Ben Hazel looks on. Princeton tips off its 2013-14 campaign by hosting Florida A&M on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MEN AT WORK: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson, right, makes a point at a recent practice as junior guard Ben Hazel looks on. Princeton tips off its 2013-14 campaign by hosting Florida A&M on November 10.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last season ended with a thud for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it fell to Yale and Brown on the final regular season weekend to fall out of first place in the Ivy League and lose its shot at the league crown.

The bitter taste from those defeats, though, could sow the seeds for something special this winter as Princeton tips off its 2013-14 campaign by hosting Florida A&M on November 10.

For senior guard and team captain T.J. Bray, the memory of that meltdown spurred him to greater heights in preparing for his final college campaign.

“Last year stung really bad, I would be lying if I said I don’t think about it  during every workout I did this summer,” said Bray, reflecting on a season that saw Princeton go 17-11 overall and 10-4 Ivy as Harvard went on to take the title.

“It is that extra motivation to do that last rep, that last drill, and push yourself even farther. That is not necessarily the legacy I want to leave here; luckily I have got one more year to change the way people think about me. I don’t want that last weekend to define my career.”

Bray’s classmate, senior forward Will Barrett, was likewise driven by the  experience.

“The way the season ended, it motivated me every single day,” said Barrett. “I thought about it before I went to bed every night and when I woke up in the morning I still had that feeling in my stomach where it just didn’t feel right.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, for his part, views the finish as an important learning tool going forward.

“For two weeks after the season, you don’t sleep, that is how I reacted to it,” said Henderson, who is entering his third season at the helm of the Tigers and has posted an overall mark of 37-23 in his first two seasons.

“Then you watch the film a few times and you move on and you start looking forward to planning for what we have coming back. I have always been excited about what we have coming back. I don’t want to be reactionary. We are focused on the process of getting better. We might have looked forward a little bit too much in that last weekend.”

While the graduation of star Ian Hummer could give Henderson some sleepless nights, he is confident that the team has the depth to make up for the loss of Hummer, the 2013 Ivy Player of the Year who led the Tigers in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and assists.

“Ian did so many things for us but we are so different immediately,” said Henderson.

“We have six new guys and three guys who took the year off. Ben Hazel and Jimmy Sherburne factor in very heavily for us in terms of minutes. I am going to  play some freshmen so it is really a different team. I am not saying that we are not going to miss Ian because we are going to. We are going to be spreading the ball around where we are less focused on one guy. We are obviously going to go with what makes us good. I think it is committee; it is what’s open.”

Henderson expects Bray (9.9 points and 3.8 resounds per game in 2012-13) to do some very good things for the Tigers this winter.

“T.J. is the heart and soul of our program and he has been for three years,” said Henderson of the 6’5 native of New Berlin, Wis. who was a second-team All-Ivy choice last season.

“He gets steals. He is an excellent Ivy League guard. He has become a driller, he is a great shooter. These guys don’t talk to each other when they come off the floor. I think it is the nature of college basketball these days but T.J. is a talker and that’s what you need. You need someone who is really going to be active and a good voice. We switch him around; we put him in different spots so that he can be vocal with different parts of the team.

The 6’10 Barrett (9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds) should be heard from a lot this winter.

“Will Barrett is our tallest player and he happens to be the second best shooter in the country,” said Henderson of Barrett, who hit on 48-for-93 three-pointers last winter for a .516 shooting percentage beyond the arc. “That is a huge advantage for us. He has a beautiful shot; he gets it off very easily.”

Henderson is looking for some inside punch from 6’8 sophomore Hans Brase (5.4 points, 4.2 rebounds) and 6’8 junior Denton Koon (10.5 points and 3.0 rebounds).

“We  weren’t particularly a great rebounding team last year,” said Henderson. “I think Hans Brase is going to make a huge step. I see Denton Koon filling the void there.”

The Tigers are welcoming a class of six freshman who should fill some other holes for the team.

“I like the freshman group, they have all impressed me,” asserted Henderson.

“I am not being political when I say that. I like the group quite a bit. They have embraced the culture and what we emphasize here which is getting better and working hard. That said, I think you will see Pete Miller quite a bit. Spencer Weisz, is a good player from Seton Hall Prep who had a really nice career there. I think following in the long line of Princeton players, he really has an understanding of the game.”

Barrett, for his part, believes that the freshmen will make a nice contribution this winter.

“Coach was talking about the freshmen coming in, they have a point guard through center and every one of them is in the gym shooting every single day,” said Barrett.

“It just motivates me even more seeing younger guys like that who have the hunger and the passion. I am always in the gym with them and we are feeding off each other. That has been very helpful for me.”

In Bray’s view, the team’s veterans can help lead the way for the newcomers.

“I like what we have coming back, obviously Ian is a big loss but we have got  four other starters back and a lot of guys who have played a lot of basketball for Princeton,” said Bray.

“I think we are going to be very balanced this year and I think we can beat teams in a lot of different ways.”

For Henderson, new rule changes which will lead to more fouling and increased scoring should give the Tigers additional ways to beat foes.

“I think it is going to improve scoring and I think it is going to reward  teams that value skill and playing together, which we have done here for years,” said Henderson.

“I like it, I think it is great. Our guys love it too. It opens the floor but it is still going to be a physical game.”

The Tigers will have to be on their game in order to win their first league crown since the 2010-11 campaign.

“I know our guys think the league is good,” said Henderson, whose team was picked to finish fourth in the Ivy preseason media poll.

“We expect to play well and compete against everybody we play, whether it is  Florida A & M, Butler on the road, or a team in our league.”

TAKING THE HELM: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter heads to the hoop in action last season. Senior forward Helmstetter, a second-team All-Ivy League performer in 2012-13, will be a key figure this winter as the Tigers go after a fifth straight league title. Princeton opens its 2013-14 campaign by playing Rutgers on November 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING THE HELM: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter heads to the hoop in action last season. Senior forward Helmstetter, a second-team All-Ivy League performer in 2012-13, will be a key figure this winter as the Tigers go after a fifth straight league title. Princeton opens its 2013-14 campaign by playing Rutgers on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a quartet that took the Princeton University women’s basketball program to new heights.

The squad’s Class of 2013 — two-time Ivy League Player of the year Niveen Rasheed, three-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen — led the Tigers to four straight league titles, a 54-2 Ivy record, and an overall mark of 96-20.

But as head coach Courtney Banghart looks forward to her seventh season guiding the Tigers, she isn’t crying the blues about the graduation losses from a team that went 22-7 overall and 13-1 Ivy last winter.

“This is an exciting group,” said Banghart, speaking last Thursday at the program’s annual media day.

“I think there are a lot of people who won’t recognize some of the people that are going to be really important to us as we go through. We have the same resolve and the same goal. It’s been fun to coach a team that can score and that’s what we can do. We have spent some time over the last three years, creating offense with players that struggle to score. Now we can definitely score.”

In Banghart’s view, her trio of freshmen, Jackie Reyneke, Vanessa Smith, and Taylor Brown could be be very important additions for the Tigers.

“We just do what we do here, we reload and so we have got three players who are exactly what you would want,” said Banghart, whose team opens the season by playing at Rutgers on November 10.

“We have got size in Jackie Reyneke from Saddle River. She is our longest. She is 6’4 with a really high release. She will see time. Then we have got a wing from Cleveland Ohio, Vanessa Smith, she actually started in our scrimmage the other day. She is a really long wing who is really aggressive off the dribble. Then we have got a little lead guard, Taylor Brown, who is about 5’8. As soon as they adjust to Princeton and adjust to the pace of play, they will help us consistently.”

Banghart is expecting more consistent play from her sophomores, Amanda Berntsen (1.7 points per game in 2012-13), Annie Tarakchian (2.9 points), Alex Wheatley (5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds), Taylor Williams (1.4 points), and Michelle Miller (6.7 points and 3.0 rebounds).

“I think the sophomore class, the group of five that played together some last year, all came back better,” asserted Banghart.

“They are stronger. They understand the rigors of our season. They are more skilled. They are noticeably better. I think that part of that came from what happened all year when they had to guard really good players and part of it came with knowing that we were graduating a lot.”

Banghart is getting a lot of intangibles from her senior co-captains Nicole Hung (5.8 points) and Kristen Helmstetter (8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds) along with battle-tested point guard Blake Dietrick (8.0 points and 3.4 rebounds).

“I embrace the journey with this group because of the leadership,” said Banghart.

“I spend a lot of time dealing with these three people and they spend a lot of time dealing with everybody else. I can’t say enough about the leadership of this group.”

The trio figures to lead the way on the court as well. “Hung is coming back from an injury and she isn’t as healthy yet as she needs to be,” said Banghart of the 5’11 guard who was limited to five games last season

“Her commitment to her training and to the team through injury has been admirable. Kristen, our other captain, just does everything for us. She’ll play at either the wing or the post or both depending on whoever else is ready. She has really been the floor leader on both sides of the ball and definitely will be very, very key to our success. Blake has emerged as our starting lead guard. She scored a lot last year and played really well. The team starts and stops with this group.”

Dietrick, for her part, is looking forward to getting the season underway. I am really excited,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, who led the Tigers with 52 three-pointers last winter.

“Our young kids are awesome. They have so much energy and passion for the game. They want to fight everyday just like we do. They are not afraid when we are down their throats about something. They accept it, they listen to it, they want to get better, and I really appreciate and respect that. I think we are going to do pretty well.”

The 6’0 Helmstetter, a second-team All-Ivy performer last season, is ready to stand tall for the Tigers.

“I think my role is a leader on the court,” said Helmstetter, a native of nearby Bridgewater, N.J. “Last year, it was a little bit more of a comfort role, I had four seniors on the court to play with and I just took that back seat and rolled with them. This year both Hung and I have really grown and stepped up into this role. I am just excited. I have four new people to start with. I started with Blake a few times last year so I know we have good chemistry and I can’t wait to gain that chemistry with the other players on our team.”

In Banghart’s view, the team needs to develop some grit to go with its chemistry in order to stay atop the Ivies.

“We just have got to build the right base and build the right blocks defensively, on the glass and the toughness points,” said Banghart, whose club was picked to finish first in the Ivy preseason media poll.

“I think if this team gains toughness on a daily basis, I really like where we will be at the end of the year.”

The Tigers face a tough opening assignment with the road contest at Rutgers.

“I don’t even know who is going to start against Rutgers,” said Banghart. “It is not a race for who is ready first, it is race for who is good enough when it is time. We scrimmaged Temple and I thought we did some really nice things. We scrimmage again this weekend. Everyday we get a little bit different and a little bit better. I think Rutgers is a really good test. It is on the road, which is also difficult, given that we have so much inexperience.”

Banghart is confident that the Tigers can be really good again this winter. “I wouldn’t sugar coat this,” said Banghart.

“As a coach I would rather tell you that I wasn’t happy. It is a good  group. We have a long way to go but I think we have the potential to be pretty darn good which is awesome. To be honest, I think we are reloaded. I don’t think there is any trouble in Tigertown.”

And that could spell trouble for Princeton’s Ivy foes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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