October 23, 2013
PINPOINT AIM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro aims a free kick in recent action. The play of junior star Pinheiro has been a bright spot for the Panthers as they stood at 3-7-3 after a 1-0 loss to Lawrence High last Friday. PDS starts postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PINPOINT AIM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro aims a free kick in recent action. The play of junior star Pinheiro has been a bright spot for the Panthers as they stood at 3-7-3 after a 1-0 loss to Lawrence High last Friday. PDS starts postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It has been mix-and-match for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team this fall as it has dealt with a series of injuries.

Last Friday as PDS hosted Lawrence High for its Senior Day, two of the honorees, Culver Duquette and Tom Hagan, were sidelined by injury while junior Oscar Vik was in a sling due to a shoulder problem.

During the second half on Friday, the Panthers dealt with some more misfortune as goalie Aaron Gold left the contest due to a knock and Christian Vik had to move from midfield to the keeper spot. Undeterred by the upheaval, PDS battled the Cardinals tooth-and-nail, dropping a 1-0 decision.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy was proud of his team’s resilience. “I thought the first half, I thought we did very well, considering that we have so many injuries,” said Murphy, whose team fell to 3-7-3 with the loss.

“I thought they played well, composed and kept the ball like we like them to do.”

Murphy acknowledged that his team didn’t do enough with the ball, getting held scoreless for a fifth straight game.

“We didn’t do enough in the final third; that’s what we struggle with even when we have a full team out,” said Murphy.

“We can get the ball up there, we just can’t manage to keep it up there with enough effort on goal.”

The change at goalie didn’t faze the Panthers as they pressed forward until the final whistle.

“With the injury we had to switch the midfield around but by now they should be used to it,” said Murphy.

“They never know who they are playing next to. We overcame what happened and they have finally become immune to it. It is just a case of going out and seeing what they could get. I think the last 10 minutes, they put something together.”

PDS got some good play from several individuals, including junior midfielder Marco Pinheiro, senior Sean Hudson, and senior Gabriel Vazquez.

“There is always Marco, he is out there playing well, “added Murphy. “Sean Hudson at the back was excellent again. Vazquez did a lot of work up top and it is not easy for a forward in this type of game. When you are looking to keep possession like this you look for more technical players, but they work hard for us.”

With the Panthers entering postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament, Murphy is looking for more flexibility from his squad.

“We’ll just have to look at the tactics, especially the Prep B, to see if there is anything where we can take a little bit maybe from the back four and give to the forwards,” said Murphy, whose team is seeded sixth in the Prep B tourney and 14th in the MCT.

“Each game is a one-off and you have to go out and play to win. We have just got to make sure and see if we can switch a couple of players around and out them higher up the field.”

BREAKING THROUGH: Hun School football player Andrew ­Foster, left, breaks through the line in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Foster helped Hun top Hill 41-0 as the Raiders earned their first win of the season and gave new head coach John Law the first victory of his tenure. Hun, now 1-4, plays at Lawrenceville on October 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAKING THROUGH: Hun School football player Andrew ­Foster, left, breaks through the line in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Foster helped Hun top Hill 41-0 as the Raiders earned their first win of the season and gave new head coach John Law the first victory of his tenure. Hun, now 1-4, plays at Lawrenceville on October 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It may be early October but the Hun School football team didn’t hesitate in celebrating its 41-0 win over the Hill School (Pa.) last Saturday by dousing head coach John Law with a bucket of water.

After losing its first four games under new head coach Law, the Raiders had plenty of reason to treat the victory like a championship effort.

“We were so hungry for this win,” said junior running back Christopher Sharp. “At 0-4, we needed this win. This is a great game, a great feeling right now.”

Even though Hun jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the coaches didn’t want the players feeling too good about themselves.

“In the locker room, everybody was happy but the coaches came to us and said we have got to play like we are down 14-0 right now so we have to come out stronger than we did in the first half,” recalled Sharp. “That really helped us.”

The Raiders produced a strong second half, scoring 14 points in the third quarter and tacking on 13 more in the fourth while stifling the Hill offense. Hun’s final score for the day came on a four-yard touchdown run by former Princeton High star Zack DiGregorio.

“We have come out strong in the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter this season and then we just die off,” said Sharp.

“This past week of practice, we conditioned and worked and worked. It is really paying off now, we are finishing.”

Sharp played a big role in finishing off Hill, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown.

“I feel as though I had a good game but it is all due to the line,” said Sharp. “They played a great game.”

It was a very good feeling for Sharp and his teammates to get that first win for their coach.

“I love Coach Law, personally I feel like he is one of the greatest coaches in New Jersey,” asserted Sharp.

“He is great and this win for him feels great. I know that there is a lot of talking, people thinking it is his fault that we are losing but it really is not. I am so happy we got this win for him.”

Coach Law, for his part, was more happy for his players than he was for himself.

“I have been at it a long time and it does feel good,” said a beaming Law.

“It is never about me in my 24 years here. I am absolutely thrilled that we got a win but it is about the kids for me. I just love that they were so happy today. I have been looking for that. We kept believing in them. We kept grinding and I told them if they do the basics, this game will be good to them and I thought the game was good to them today.”

The Hun players put their noses to the grindstone last week as they looked to break their losing streak.

“On Monday, we said we were going to strip the bus down and then rebuild it,” said Law.

“The biggest thing was their mental approach in how to play the game for four quarters. That was the focus on Monday, just having them be mentally tough and handling the pressure of the game; handling the ebbs and flows of it and not crumbling and not get down. That is what it is all about and what we have been fighting for for four weeks.”

Law liked the way Sharp handled things as he not only paced the Hun rushing attack but played well at defensive back.

“He is learning and learning fast, now he gets it,” said Law, noting that Sharp was moved to running back this season after playing receiver last year.

“This is what we expected out of him and I am real proud of him today. He played both sides of the ball, he put a lot on his back today and I am so happy for him.”

The play of the Hun offensive line also made Law happy. “We got back to the old fashioned Hun way to play,” said Law. “If you can control the line of scrimmage, you can control a lot of other things.”

The Raiders also dominated in the trenches on defense, getting after Hill quarterback Matt Foltz all game long as they picked up five sacks.

“The big thing was that we wanted the quarterback uncomfortable and I think that was the key,” said Law.

“I ran a three-front and I never had to get to a four-front. We were putting on pressure that way. Our goal was to keep a quarterback like that uncomfortable and they did and it worked for us.”

Hun can’t start feeling comfortable about things as it plays at high-powered Lawrenceville (3-2) on October 26.

“We know we have a test against Lawrenceville, that is going to be a major emotional game for us,” said Law.

“We are going to use this as our foundation to move forward. I have a lot of confidence now that they will compete. If they compete and they take the right mental approach to the game, we are going to show up and that is all we can do.”

Sharp, for his part, believes that the Raiders will compete very hard against the Big Red.

“We are going to practice harder than we did this past week,” maintained Sharp.

“It was a great confidence builder but we are staying humble and we are not going to get too cocky with it. We are just going to come out strong.”

LONG TERM SUCCESS: Former Hun School football head coach Bill Long, center, holds one of the mementos he received last Saturday when he was honored for his outstanding tenure guiding the program. Pictured with Long, from left, are Hun Athletic Director Bill Quirk and school Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. Long, who retired from Hun this summer after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean, guided the football program from 1987-1997 and posted a record of 79-19.(Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

LONG TERM SUCCESS: Former Hun School football head coach Bill Long, center, holds one of the mementos he received last Saturday when he was honored for his outstanding tenure guiding the program. Pictured with Long, from left, are Hun Athletic Director Bill Quirk and school Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. Long, who retired from Hun this summer after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean, guided the football program from 1987-1997 and posted a record of 79-19. (Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

As Bill Long enjoys his first fall in retirement after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean at the Hun School, he and his wife, Nancy, are heading west this week to start a six-week trip to Calgary, Seattle, and Arizona.

But before he left for that journey, Long was honored last Saturday by Hun for his success in heading the Raider football program from 1987-1997.

The school held a ceremony for Long at the halftime of the Hill-Hun football game, where he was introduced by Athletic Director Bill Quirk and given an ‘H’ made out of wood from the old gym floor and painted red and black.

After the game, a reception was held in his honor on campus, which drew numerous former players and his coaching staff. He received a lamp made out of a Hun football helmet and signed by former players along with a book of letters from players who couldn’t make it back for the evening.

Long, who retired after the 2012-13 school year, was moved by the outpouring of affection.

“What was particularly nice is that the impetus came from past players,” said Long, a 2004 inductee to the Hun Athletics Hall of Fame who guided the Raiders to a 79-19 mark in his 11 seasons at the helm.

“They talked to Nancy, they wanted to surprise me at the Nassau Inn during the summer camp. Nancy contacted Bill Quirk and he suggested that we do something at Homecoming so others could come.”

While Long enjoyed the mementos he received, the biggest gift he got on Saturday was the presence of so many former players and his assistant coaches.

“There were 80-100 people at the reception with around 40-50 players and all of my assistant coaches,” said Long, who was the Dean of Students at Hun upon his retirement and now lives on the Jersey shore.

“I had 12 minutes to speak. I worked three hours in Ocean County Library on Friday preparing the speech, making sure I mentioned all of the people that were going to be there. The main thing I said was that it was my honor and privilege to work alongside every one of the players and coaches.”

For Long, it was his work ethic that helped set him apart as one of the top football coaches in the area.

“I would work all day Sunday on football and I would be thinking about it 24 hours day,” recalled Long, whose teams won more than 20 games in a row during a stretch from 1989-1991 and had three undefeated seasons with five state Prep A crowns.

“I would wake up thinking where a guy could be better on punt coverage than someone else we were using. It was all consuming.”

Spending all that time on football was a labor of love for Long, who is legendary for his positive influence on his players.

“It was the relationships with the players and the assistant coaches that meant the most,” said Long, noting that one of the highlights of his tenure came in 1994 when his son, Bill, served as a team captain.

“I thank my wife Nancy for being a great mother and raising our kids while I was raising other people’s kids.”

October 16, 2013
TURNING IT ON: Princeton University defensive back Anthony Gaffney surveys the action in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, former Pennington School standout and sophomore star Gaffney contributed a key interception and four tackles as Princeton rallied from a 20-11 deficit to defeat visiting Lafayette 42-26. Gaffney’s interception was one of three turnovers produced by the Tiger defense in the second half. Princeton, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, plays at Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 19.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNING IT ON: Princeton University defensive back Anthony Gaffney surveys the action in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, former Pennington School standout and sophomore star Gaffney contributed a key interception and four tackles as Princeton rallied from a 20-11 deficit to defeat visiting Lafayette 42-26. Gaffney’s interception was one of three turnovers produced by the Tiger defense in the second half. Princeton, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, plays at Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University football players arrived for work last Saturday before their game against visiting Lafayette, they were greeted by a message from Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, David and Goliath.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace hung a quote in each locker indicating that courage is not something that makes you brave when the tough times start, it is “what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they are not so tough after all.”

Having gone 1-9 in back-to-back seasons before posting a 5-5 record last fall, the team’s veterans weren’t fazed when they fell behind Lafayette 20-11 in the first quarter last Saturday. Picking up the intensity on defense and finding a rhythm offensively, the Tigers pulled away to a 42-26 win before a crowd of 7,494 at Princeton Stadium.

Afterward, Surace credited his team with displaying the character it has developed in working through the program’s recent struggles.

“I told the guys in the locker room how proud I am of them,” said Surace, whose team improved to 3-1 overall with the victory.

“That was kind of exciting going into halftime. This is the type of football that you play, with two good teams and for us to play that well in the second half, as a football coach, you are proud in how you finished the game. In that fourth quarter, some of things we did in running the clock out, just those gut check drives, those are the things you work on from spring ball, December, January, and February, all the way through to the summer time. The work that these guys put in, you want it to pay off. That was a really hard fought win and I am proud of them.”

The Tiger defense fought particularly hard as it rebounded from a shaky first quarter that saw it get burned by local product Ross Scheuerman, a former Allentown High star, who scored on touchdown runs of 69 and 18 yard in the first 10 minutes of contest.

“I think they really came together,” said Surace, reflecting on the defensive effort. “It is a mix of veterans and young guys. I thought once we started humming up front and the pass rush got better, it really helped us get off the field. I thought we did some different things in our scheme and our coaches in general made some really good adjustments.”

Sophomore defensive back Matt Arends said the Tigers made an attitude adjustment to slow down the Lafayette offense. “I would say the biggest thing is that we weren’t gap responsible for the first quarter,” said Arends, who ended the day with a team-high 10 tackles and one pass breakup.

“We weren’t being as physical as we could have been. Once we decided we could just take it to them up front and at the second line, we hit it. The big cutbacks and the gap responsibilities that we didn’t have in the first quarter, we fixed, and I think that is what made the difference.”

In the second half, the defense made a big difference through forcing turnovers as John Hill and Anthony Gaffney came up with interceptions while Mike Zeuli had a fumble recovery.

“I think the biggest thing is that we knew they were coming, it was just a matter of when they were going to come and they came today,” said Arends, referring to the caused turnovers.

“They came in bunches which is what we have been talking about. We have been close. In practice, we are always working on stripping the ball. Today it finally hit. It was great to see and I think what we saw was just keeping the defense motivated and that we could just pound them.”

While it almost seemed like a quiet day offensively after exploding for 53 and 50 points the prior two weeks, Princeton pounded Lafayette into submission with its multi-faceted attack.

Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly had another productive day, hitting on four touchdown passes and running for another as Princeton rolled up 447 yards of total offense.

But it was junior receiver Connor Kelley who was most emblematic of Princeton’s versatility, producing a career game with eight receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.

“I think the way our offense is designed, a lot of guys are contributing,” said the 6’2, 220-pound Kelley, who started his Princeton career as a quarterback before getting moved to receiver.

“We are working extremely hard all week long in practice. That is just how it works. Anybody can have that kind of game at any time, that’s what makes our offense great. Up front, those guys are workers. If the running game is not really working, we have other options. People are stepping up all over the field. I think this game is big evidence of that.”

Princeton certainly stepped up after the rocky start against the Leopards. Epperly hit Roman Wilson with a two-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter to cut the Lafayette lead to 20-18. With seven seconds left in the half, Nolan Bieck hit a career-long 40-yard field goal to give Princeton a 21-20 lead at intermission.

In the third quarter, Princeton cashed in on the Gaffney interception to extend its lead. Four plays after former Pennington School star Gaffney returned the pick to the Lafayette 20-yard-line, Epperly found Kelley in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown pass as Princeton went up 28-20.

Lafayette answered with a touchdown pass from Andrew Dzurik to Mike Duncan on a flea flicker to narrow the gap to 28-26 with 9:03 remaining in the third quarter.

Later in the quarter, the Tigers put together another scoring drive as a 29-yard pass play from Epperly to Kelley on a fourth down and five kept the march alive. Epperly hit tight end Des Smith on a five-year scoring strike as Princeton got its lead to 35-26.

The final score of the day came when Epperly rushed for a one-yard touchdown with 9:02 remaining in regulation.

Princeton was able to run out the last 5:50 of the contest, rushing the ball eight times in nine plays as the clock hit 0:00.

Surace enjoyed watching the Tigers close the deal with the display of power running. “Will Powers and different guys just ran the ball so hard at the end; our line came off the ball so well,” said Surace, whose team heads into the thick of its Ivy League campaign by playing at Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 19.

“We come into tomorrow with a good feeling, this is what it is going to take to beat other Ivy teams. I know how physical Brown is; I know how hard they play. We need to be like that every drive if we are going to have success. The last time we played them there, it was one of the ugliest losses. That was a 34-0 loss, that  was a really hard feeling, that was a long bus ride.”

In Surace’s view, the earned courage from that experience will help the Tigers this Saturday and beyond.

“I don’t see a blowout left on the schedule,” maintained Surace. “If it happens, I hope it is in our favor. If we are going to get through these games, we need a thick skin. In those gut check moments, you have got to get the first down on third and one and run through things.”

HEADS UP: Princeton University men’s soccer player Chris ­Benedict, left, battles a foe in action earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior back Benedict helped key a superb defensive effort as Princeton tied Brown 0-0. The Tigers, who moved to 4-5-1 overall and 1-0-1 in Ivy League play with the draw, host Columbia (5-2-2 overall, 0-0-2 Ivy) on October 19.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HEADS UP: Princeton University men’s soccer player Chris ­Benedict, left, battles a foe in action earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior back Benedict helped key a superb defensive effort as Princeton tied Brown 0-0. The Tigers, who moved to 4-5-1 overall and 1-0-1 in Ivy League play with the draw, host Columbia (5-2-2 overall, 0-0-2 Ivy) on October 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Jim Barlow, seeing his Princeton University men’s soccer team achieve a 0-0 draw at Brown last Saturday provoked decidedly mixed feelings.

“We played really well against Brown; it was disappointing not to win,” said Princeton head coach Barlow, whose team outshot the Bears 21-10 as it moved to 4-5-1 overall and 1-0-1 in Ivy League play.

“I thought we were on top of them for most of the game. We had more chances and more possession. In the second overtime, Brown picked it up; they had two really good chances so we could have lost the game.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan stood tall for the Tigers as he made a career-high six saves in the stalemate.

“MacMillan played well,” said Barlow. “He was in control of the box, he did well on restarts and crosses.”

In Barlow’s view, his team played well collectively in the draw. “The two center backs, Billy McGuinness and Josh Miller, were really good,” said Barlow.

“You would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t play well, everyone who got in did well. Myles McGinley played well and had a lot of chances. Thomas Sanner had four good chances. In the OT, he had a one-on-one and he kicked it into the goalie instead of finding the corner like he usually does. He was definitely a presence up front, he got on the end of a lot of balls.”

In Barlow’s view, Princeton has definitely picked up the intensity since a 1-0 defeat to Florida Gulf Coast University on September 29.

“We were really disappointed with that loss,” said Barlow. “From that game on, we have been more consistent and more solid. We are healthier and the guys have figured out their roles and responsibilities.”

A come-from-behind 2-1 win at Dartmouth in early October got Princeton headed in the right direction.

“We had a good first half and they had one shot and scored,” recalled Barlow.

“We were down 1-0 at halftime and the guys stuck with it and had a really big win. To start out with road games against Dartmouth and Brown, who are usually title contenders, and not have a loss is good. We feel good about where we are; we are in control of things.”

Barlow feels good about how his defense is playing as it has given up just one goal in its last three games.

“The defense had been good. In addition to the center backs, Joe Saitta has played real well at left back, the two Ivy games were his best games of the season,” added Barlow.

“Chris Benedict was really solid against Drexel [a 1-0 win on October 8] at right back and did well again on Saturday.”

With the first six teams in the Ivy League closely bunched, Princeton will need to be at its best as it hosts Columbia (5-2-2 overall, 0-0-2 Ivy) on October 19.

“We scrimmaged Columbia this year and we know them well,” said Barlow, noting that the program will be holding a ceremony at halftime of the game to honor its 1993 NCAA Final 4 team. “They are a very solid team, they are very good.”

ROARING ALONG: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis slams a backhand in a match earlier this season. Last Monday, junior Lewis posted a straight-set win at second singles to help Princeton top Steinert 5-0 and win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROARING ALONG: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis slams a backhand in a match earlier this season. Last Monday, junior Lewis posted a straight-set win at second singles to help Princeton top Steinert 5-0 and win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Rory Lewis is affectionately known as “the machine” by her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ tennis team due to her unyielding work ethic, she views the time spent on the game as a labor of love.

“It is not really training to me, it is just fun,” said junior Lewis, who plays second singles for PHS.

“It is a break from school and all those other things. I love to do it and you get better if you work at it so that it is a good by-product. It is just about loving to do it.”

Last Friday, Lewis had plenty of fun as she posted a 6-1, 6-1 win over Artemis Tapliga of Wall as the Little Tigers posted a 5-0 win in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals.

On Monday, she defeated Rachael Peters 6-0, 6-0 as PHS topped Steinert 5-0 to win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi.

In reflecting on her win in the Wall match, Lewis credited a positive approach with helping her prevail.

“I just came out aggressively; I was confident in my strokes,” said Lewis. “That is the most important thing in tennis and it was working. I played well.”

For Lewis, moving up to singles from doubles this year is a reflection of her increased confidence.

“It was a big change but last year I got a lot of confidence,” said Lewis. “My doubles partner, Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas], was great. She really helped me build my confidence. In the beginning of preseason, I really wasn’t sure of my strokes. She helped me gain the confidence needed to play in any spot. When I got second singles this year, I was glad and I decided I had to step it up and I was able to.”

In order to step up in her new spot, Lewis has learned to deal with the solitary nature of singles.

“You have to pump yourself up more, especially if you are down,” said Lewis, who took third in second singles at the Mercer County Tournament last month.

“You don’t have somebody out there giving you advice. At the same time, you get used to it. Obviously, it means you moved up, and you have to stay focused and not feel alone and just enjoy it. I have been through a few rough patches where I am not so sure but I have been able to pull through most of the time.”

Lewis was pumped up to see PHS pull through in the state tournament. “It is awesome; it is a great experience,” said Lewis. “We all love tennis and it means we get to play more. It is fun, it is great.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert loved seeing her team advance. “Any time you are able to get to a sectional final you are pleased with the result,” said Hibbert, whose first singles star Christina Rosca is in the running for another title as she will play in the state singles final on October 16.

“I knew we had a lot of potential this year and it would come down to how we could get the doubles players fitting into their roles. We obviously have strength at the top of the lineup with Chris and Katelyn [Hojelbane] returning and Rory making the jump up from doubles. One of the things we do best is carry depth through our lineup. I knew that the doubles [Zhenia Dementyev/Gillian Samios at first doubles and Allison Hubert/Nikhita Salgame at second doubles] would be a key to our season and they have come together really well so far.”

A key to PHS’s success this fall has been Lewis’ development into a singles star. “I think the biggest thing she has improved on this year is her confidence,” said Hibbert.

“She has really been able to play up to her level. Last year, she came in and she didn’t play as well during preseason because of the nerves and the pressure she puts on herself. I think partnering with Maddie helped her. Maddie was such an outgoing aggressive, terrific person that it kind of pulled Rory along. She has more confidence and belief in herself. She has really been able to translate that into winning matches. She still puts pressure on herself and she still wants to win and work as hard. She is the first one there; she is always willing to work harder and do more. She is a good asset.”

Hojelbane had to work hard in her match at third singles as she rallied from an early deficit to pull out a 6-4, 6-1 win over Shaina Donner.

“I went out there when she was down 4-1. I could tell it was just nerves and not tennis right now so I said you just need to relax, move your feet, hit your shots and play your game and don’t look at the scoreboard and you will be able to come back,” recalled Hibbert.

“She won 12 out of the next 13 games so she listened quite well and got herself relaxed and was able to play her game. It is nice to have that taken care of because doubles is funny, the better team doesn’t always win. You always want to have confidence in your team but it is always nice when you can just watch.”

Hibbert is confident her team can take the final step in the state final four, having fallen in the semis in 2011 and then in the finals last year. “It depends on matchups; we were hoping it was a possibility,” said Hibbert.

“We take it one match at a time and see how it goes. Five of these girls played in the states last year and I think having that experience and being as close as we were last year and we just missed out on it. I know they are going to want it just as much, if not more. It may or may not happen. There are a lot of strong teams out there. We want to get there and see what happens.”

Lewis, for her part, believes that the strong bonds the team has developed this fall lead the players to compete harder for each other.

“It is support all around; we give each other a lot of support,” said Lewis, noting with a smile that every player on the team has a nickname.

“That is part of it, you have to feel like your team has confidence in you, and that win or lose, they are not going to care. It is just about friendship and being really close. We have gotten closer with each match and it is great.”

 

PAW PRINTS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Shannon ­Pawlak goes after the ball in recent action. With junior star Pawlak having scored 21 goals, PHS has produced a 9-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAW PRINTS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Shannon ­Pawlak goes after the ball in recent action. With junior star Pawlak having scored 21 goals, PHS has produced a 9-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Shannon Pawlak and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ soccer were frustrated as they found themselves locked in a 1-1 halftime tie at WW/P-S last week.

“For some reason, we got off to a really slow start,” said PHS junior forward Pawlak.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on. We knew coming off the field that we were better than how we were playing and we can do better than this.”

Midway through the second half, Pawlak got PHS feeling a lot better as she slotted home a feed from Ally Rogers to give the Little Tigers a 2-1 lead.

“Ally Rogers hit a really good cross to me and luckily I was just running in the middle and got in front of the defender and was able to play it in,” recalled Pawlak.

“It was a simple pass in. It was a really good play by Ally and a good possession by us. It gave us hope because we kept breaking their defense and we kept getting shots and we knew it was coming and to finally get it was definitely satisfying.”

Minutes later, Pawlak enjoyed another satisfying moment as she buried a penalty kick to give PHS a lead of 3-1, which turned out to be the final score of the contest.

“Usually I go low right but now my strategy is to look and see what direction the goalie leans in right before I kick it,” explained Pawlak. “It is kind of how I feel.”

With 21 goals in this season and 13 in the team’s last six games, Pawlak feels good about the way her teammates are setting her up.

“I have been having a lucky season but along with that, the way we play as a team is helping me,” said Pawlak, who chipped in an assist last Thursday as PHS topped WW/P-N 2-0 in improving to 9-1.

“It is not just me who is making the goals; it is the whole team as a collective unit. By building through the defense and building through the midfield and Ally giving me great crosses, that is mainly where my goals are coming from. It is the work of everybody else.”

Pawlak, though, acknowledges that she has taken a more cold-blooded approach this fall around the net.

“I think I am just creating a lot more opportunities than last year,” said Pawlak.

“I am a little bit more selfish in front of the net, which just comes with the position.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand believes that Pawlak’s diligence alone has helped to create a lot of scoring chances for the Little Tigers.

“Shannon never stops working, she is in a spot where you are going to fail a lot more than you are going to succeed; I think she knows that,” said Hand.

“She is intense on the field. She is terrific, she makes great decisions. We just need to have one or two players there that she can play to if she doesn’t like where she is. She paid a lot of dues since last season. She has worked very hard to become stronger, more agile, and develop every dimension of the game of soccer. Everything we are seeing this year is a product of that hard work since last year.”

Hand liked the good work he saw from his players in the WW/P-S game as they picked up their intensity after the sluggish first half.

“Several kids just really stepped up in the second half and really had an impact on the momentum of the game in the first few minutes,” asserted Hand.

“Haley Bodden was a great ball-winner in the midfield. Dana Smith was just really organizing things throughout that second half and finding players and relieving pressure. Ally Rogers had some fantastic crosses, she has shown us a knack for getting around players and getting crosses in. The quality of the crosses that she served today is something that any forward would like to have.”

With the county tournament starting later this month, Hand believes his squad has the quality to be a title contender.

“We’ll be in the mix; the one-goal games that we have won we could have lost had luck gone the other way,” said Hand, whose team hosts Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22.

“I love the fact that we seem to be able to compete with everybody and at least make a game of it and find ways to create against them. We are still working on our defensive team concept.”

Pawlak, for her part, is confident that the team can emulate last year’s stretch run which saw the program win its first sectional title.

“We have been playing similarly to last year, I think we have the same amount of talent,” said Pawlak.

“I think as we keep progressing through our games, we can go as far hopefully.”

MAC ATTACK: Princeton High field hockey player Campbell McDonald goes for a hit last Thursday against Princeton Day School. Junior star McDonald scored the winning goal in the contest as PHS rallied to edge PDS 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 10-3-1, host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where PHS had been seeded third and will host No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton High field hockey player Campbell McDonald goes for a hit last Thursday against Princeton Day School. Junior star McDonald scored the winning goal in the contest as PHS rallied to edge PDS 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 10-3-1, host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where PHS had been seeded third and will host No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High field hockey team fell behind 1-0 at Princeton Day School midway through the second half last Wednesday, Campbell McDonald and her teammates weren’t about to back down.

“We were concerned but I think in moments like that our team steps up and plays the best game they can,” said McDonald.

“It does wake us up a little bit. It woke us up and I think that is what inspired us to push even harder than we already were.”

Moments later, PHS was able to push in two goals as Lucy Herring scored with 12:21 left in regulation and then McDonald found the back of the cage with 3:17 remaining to notch the game-winner as the Little Tigers pulled out a 2-1 victory.

“I was thinking when the corner went off that we have to get it in this time so I knew my job was to get to pads and Elisa [Kostenbader] was getting to post,” said McDonald, reflecting on her tally.

“We had perfect passing in the end and all that passing added together and we got that clean first shot.”

In McDonald’s view, the first goal from Herring proved to be the turning point for the Little Tigers.

“It was a big spark,” said McDonald. “At that point we were just hitting it into the pads and we didn’t know what was going to happen and to see it go through and Lucy get that touch was just so exciting. It just sparked everything for everyone.”

Even though the Little Tigers had only lost twice this fall with PDS having six defeats as the teams hit the field, McDonald was expecting an exciting game.

“We came into this game knowing that it was going to be tough and we were going to go back and forth,” said McDonald.

“There was no outcome that we could predict at that point because either team could have won.”

With the teams knotted 0-0 at halftime, PHS knew that it had to pick things up to avoid an upset.

“We communicated a lot better, which was one of our goals,” said McDonald. “We were just getting passes off and we were being clean and crisp, which was exactly what we needed to do.”

Having tallied two goals and an assist in the three games leading up to Wednesday’s clash with the Panthers, McDonald has been playing crisply.

“I know that sometimes it is hard because when you play for a club team you need to learn to adjust and change,” said McDonald, who competes for the Princeton field hockey club which is headed by Princeton University head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“I think when I feel like I am ready, I just start playing and everyone starts playing with me. I fit everyone’s mold and then they fit mine.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson acknowledged that it took a while for her team to start playing well against PDS.

“Every year it is a challenge for us to get past PDS,” said Serverson. “I don’t think this year was that much different. They played a really tight game, they have very good sticks, and they stop everything. We had to adjust to that. We weren’t playing our game at first. We were kind of reacting to them as opposed to doing what we know we do best and we finally got our act together.”

Showing its maturity, PHS reacted well when it fell behind. “I think that ability to come back is something I have been working on with this program over years,” said Serverson.

“I think it is finally at the point where I don’t have to prompt them or get them excited. They just know we need to respond to that now, we need to turn it on right now.”

It was not surprising to Serverson that Herring and McDonald tallied the PHS goals in the rally.

“Lucy is a scrappy player, I love it,” said Serverson. “She is always there when she needs to be there with the proper execution. I couldn’t ask for more from her. I think Lucy and Campbell are very similar. She is usually on, they rarely have a bad game. When they are on together, it is wonderful.”

Junior forward Elisa Kostenbader, who assisted on both Little Tiger goals against PDS, has been on in recent action.

“Elisa definitely has been contributing more and more in terms of scoring and assists,” said Serverson. “She has been working hard at it and it has been paying off.”

With PHS seeded third in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and hosting No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round, Serverson is hoping her team’s hard work collectively will pay off with a deep run in the tourney.

“We have two losses to two very strong teams in the area,” said Serverson, whose team picked up a third defeat on Monday when it fell 2-1 to Hightstown last Monday to move to 10-3-1 and will host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the MCT.

“I think we have learned lessons from those losses because they were early on and we have made the adjustments. If we are playing the Princeton game, we are going to be hard to stop. We need a tight defense with quick, crisp passing.”

McDonald, for her part, believes PHS will be hard to beat in tournament play.

“We are very excited; I think the postseason is something we look forward to from the beginning,” said McDonald.

“We think about the season as preparation for postseason because every year we want to get farther and farther. I think we improve more and more every year and we have successfully gotten further so hopefully we can get one more step or a few more steps in the right direction.”

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary ­Sutton heads to the finish line in a recent race. Junior standout Sutton helped PHS take fourth last Saturday in the Fall Classic Varsity A race at Thompson Park in Lincroft. Sutton placed 11th overall, covering the 3.1 mile course in 20:09. Sophomore Lou Miahle led the way for the Little Tigers, taking 10th in 20:06. In upcoming action, PHS competes in the county meet on October 25 before starting state competition with the sectionals in early November.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary ­Sutton heads to the finish line in a recent race. Junior standout Sutton helped PHS take fourth last Saturday in the Fall Classic Varsity A race at Thompson Park in Lincroft. Sutton placed 11th overall, covering the 3.1 mile course in 20:09. Sophomore Lou Miahle led the way for the Little Tigers, taking 10th in 20:06. In upcoming action, PHS competes in the county meet on October 25 before starting state competition with the sectionals in early November. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High girls’ cross country team won the Varsity C race at the Shore Coaches Invitational earlier this month, it gave a potential preview of things to come.

“All season we have been talking about gearing up for some of the bigger meets,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“Everyone is talking about South (WW/P-S) but we think we can make a name for ourselves. The Shore race was an example of that; we want to race tough courses to show that we are tough runners.”

Last weekend, PHS learned that it has to be tougher as it took fourth in the Varsity A race at the Fall Classic at Thompson Park in Lincroft.

“Middletown South looked good, they have a lot of juniors and seniors,” said Smirk, referring to the second place team in the race won by Jackson Memorial. “We showed our youth yesterday. We need to be ready to risk more in the middle of the race.”

Smirk is looking for his top runner, sophomore Lou Miahle, to risk more at the head of the PHS pack.

“Lou ran really well at the Shore meet, she has taken a big step” said Smirk. “There are parts of her racing strategy that she needs to execute better so she can get to an even higher level and she knows that.”

Junior star Mary Sutton has steadily worked her way to a very high level. “Mary Sutton has talked about how the next two years are going to be her time,” said Smirk. “Over the summer, the team worked out together and took the initiative to get better and Mary was doing things on her own to improve. She has been patient in getting better and that goes hand in hand with her durability. She is not forcing the issue. At the end of last season she was a little impatient and she didn’t do as well as she would have hoped. We have talked about that.”

Former soccer player and 800-meter specialist, junior Paige Metzheiser has shown marked improvement at the longer distances.

“One of the great things about Paige is that we had Libby Bliss, the best 800 runner in PHS history, and I can say to Paige this is what she did in cross country,” said Smirk.

“Libby’s role was not to be our No. 1 but to be a solid third which is what we want from Paige. We want her to be within 15-20 seconds of the top two. We have had a couple of races where she has been right on Mary’s shoulder and they ran well together.”

The team’s top returning performer, junior Julie Bond, is racing well as she works to get up to full health and full speed.

“Julie Bond has been working through some inner leg injuries,” said Smirk. “We want to give her an opportunity to get back to full strength. We have been racing her in big races so she doesn’t get rusty. We want her to be right when it means the most.”

PHS has gained additional strength from the contribution it is getting from freshmen Maddie Whaley and Izzy Trenholm.

“It is no surprise that Maddie Whaley is doing well, not just because of her older sisters but because she is also a competitive swimmer,” said Smirk.

“Izzy has been a little bit of a surprise. She ran a 20:40 at a race and I asked if she had ever run before and she said she had done track and her best time in the mile was 7:40. She reminds me of Elyssa Gensib [former PHS star and current Penn runner], she comes to the mile marker with a smile on her face, she is happy being out there racing. She has a joy in getting better. It can get serious so that is good to see.”

Another pleasant surprise for the Little Tigers has been sophomore Emma Eikelberner.

“Last year, Emma ran a 19:25 in a 2.5 mile race; on Saturday, she ran a 21:17 in 3.1 mile race,” said Smirk. “She is phenomenally fast compared to last year. She was the quintessential person who had never run before and then came out to race. She worked through the winter and spring to turn herself into a varsity runner. She is blossoming into a varsity runner.”

In Smirk’s view, PHS can blossom into something special as it competes in the county meet on October 25 and then starts state competition with the sectionals in early November. “I think our depth is really going to come through,” said Smirk.

“Of our top 12 runners, the only senior is Belinda Liu. They are eager and focused. If we run the way we did at Shore Coaches, we can give South a run for its money at the counties. I think the 4-5-6-7 runners could make a difference in a meet like that where the top runners are going to be separated.”

ALL IN: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Allison Klei chases down a ball in action earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Klei scored a goal to help PDS top Peddie 2-0. The Panthers, now 11-0-1, host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ALL IN: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Allison Klei chases down a ball in action earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Klei scored a goal to help PDS top Peddie 2-0. The Panthers, now 11-0-1, host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Determined to rebound from a frustrating 2012 campaign, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team got off on the right foot this fall.

PDS opened the season by edging a powerful Wardlaw-Hartridge squad 1-0 in early September and hasn’t looked back, notching one big win after another.

Along the way, PDS has posted victories over such formidable foes as the Hill School (Pa.), Hun School, and the Lawrenceville School.

Last Wednesday, the Panthers took one of its biggest scalps so far as it posted a 2-0 win over the Peddie School.

“The girls were really excited,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta. “That was a very big win for us. I was told that we haven’t beaten Peddie in 15 years.”

It was exciting for Trombetta to see the PDS goals in the win come from a pair of freshmen, Allison Klei and Alexis Davis.

“Allison is a solid player, Alexa Soltesz missed four games and Allison has stepped up to striker,” said Trombetta, whose team topped Villa Victoria 5-0 last Friday to improve to 11-0-1.

“I can play her anywhere on the field. Davis had been getting a lot of opportunities early on but things weren’t going in for her; she scored a huge goal that put the Peddie game away. She got a good cross from Kirsten and stuck her foot out and hit it with confidence.”

Trombetta has certainly gained a lot of confidence in his team as the season has unfolded.

“I can’t say enough about this team,” said Trombetta. “The seniors are all having their best years and that is nice to see. The juniors have matured a lot, there is a big difference between the way they were as sophomores and how they are now. We have two sophomores who are playing well. We have nine freshmen and six of them are seeing a lot of time.”

Stingy defense has been making a big difference for the Panthers as the team has surrendered only two goals so far this fall.

“The defense has been great, everyone playing in the back has been very good,” said Trombetta. “Steph Soltesz has been great at sweeper, Brit Murray at left back has been great attacking up the field. We moved Erin Hogan to right back and she is doing the same things that Brit does. Lily Razzaghi has been at stopper and center mid; she battles every minute she is on the field. Kirsten Kuzmicz always gives 110 percent. She battles in the air and you really need a player like that. She had a beautiful header for a goal against Lawrenceville.”

At the offensive end, PDS boasts a variety of weapons as Alexa Soltesz, Eloise Stanton, Murray, Kuzmicz. and Klei have all proven to be threats around the net.

“We are a well-balanced team,” said Trombetta “We have a lot of players who can find the back of the net. We have a bunch of girls with five or six goals.”

As Trombetta looks ahead to the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and state Prep B tourney, he believes his team can get a bunch of wins. “We are hoping to get a high seed and take it from there,” said Trombetta, whose team hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22.

“We are happy with the development of the players and the team chemistry is the best I have seen since I have been here.”

STICKING OUT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan looks for the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star midfielder Brennan scored a goal to help PDS upset South Hunterdon 5-3 as the Panthers improved to 6-7. In upcoming action, PDS hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING OUT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan looks for the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star midfielder Brennan scored a goal to help PDS upset South Hunterdon 5-3 as the Panthers improved to 6-7. In upcoming action, PDS hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tracey Arndt realized that her Princeton Day School field hockey team faced a major challenge when it hosted cross-town rival Princeton High last Wednesday.

“We knew Princeton was going to be a great team, they always are,” said PDS head coach Arndt, whose team entered the day with six losses on the year while PHS had only two defeats on its ledger.

“We saw them in the summer when we were training and then we saw them in the preseason so we just knew that it was going to be a battle.”

PDS showed its fighting spirit against the Little Tigers as the game proved to be a taut contest from beginning to end. The teams were knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime. The underdog Panthers took a 1-0 lead midway through the second half on a goal by senior star Mary Travers. The Little Tigers, though, responded with two goals down the stretch to pull out a hard-earned 2-1 victory.

Afterward Arndt spent extra time consoling her disappointed players, lauding them for their effort in a losing cause.

“One of our focuses was to keep possession and do what is best for each other, make each other look good,” said Arndt.

“Except for the result, I am really proud of how our girls played. It was a matter of pulling it together and making it really cohesive. I think they kept possession so well. We were knocking on the door and we got one in during the second half, which was awesome.”

A day later, the Panthers broke through with a signature win, posting a 5-3 victory over a South Hunterdon squad that brought a 12-1 record into the contest. Senior star Emma Quigley scored two goals in the victory while classmates Emily Goldman, Sarah Brennan, and Travers added one apiece with junior goalie Katie Alden making 10 saves.

In Arndt’s view, the skill and leadership of her quartet of senior captains, Brennan, Goldman, Quigley, and Travers, has held the team together through the ups and downs of a fall that has seen the Panthers go 6-7.

“The four of them have been tremendous,” asserted Arndt. “I think they all have great skills and leadership on the field. I have asked so much of them. I have asked them to play several different positions. I have asked them to do things off the field because I am not in the building. I think the world of them. They have been great athletes and people.”

With the county and state Prep B tournaments around the corner, Arndt believes her team can do some great things in the postseason.

“I say we are in a good situation,” said Arndt, whose team hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville.

“As a coach, you always want to peak at the right time. I absolutely think we tried our best today and we had really awesome moments of hockey so I am really proud of the girls and I am looking forward to the games to come.”

FEELING HIS WAY: Hun School boys’ soccer player Felix ­Dalstein dribbles the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Dalstein and the Raiders fought hard but came up short as they lost 2-1 in overtime at the Blair Academy. Hun, now 4-7, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 19 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep A tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING HIS WAY: Hun School boys’ soccer player Felix ­Dalstein dribbles the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Dalstein and the Raiders fought hard but came up short as they lost 2-1 in overtime at the Blair Academy. Hun, now 4-7, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 19 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep A tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Showing its potential, the Hun School boys’ soccer team recently reeled off a three-game winning streak as it bounced back from a 1-4 start.

But in the last week, Hun has slipped, losing three straight games with its latest defeat coming when it fell 2-1 at the Blair School in overtime last Saturday.

Hun head coach Pat Quirk acknowledges that he has been frustrated by his team’s failure to build on the run of good form. “It was a confidence builder,” said Quirk, referring to the winning streak. “We were taking so many steps forward and now we took a step back with the Blair game.”

While Quirk had no qualms with his team’s effort against Blair in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener, he noted that Hun wasn’t sharp when it needed to be.

“It was not the result we wanted,” said Quirk, who got a goal from Andres Gonzalez in the loss to Blair which left the Raiders at 4-7.

“We got off to a slow start, they got a goal in the first two or three minutes.  We were able to tie it but we couldn’t convert our chances later on. We hit a post and we hit some wide. There was a mix up on a free kick at the end which led to their goal.”

The Hun defense has been unsettled as senior goalie Chris Meinert was sidelined after a 5-1 win over the Princeton Day School on October 2.

“Chris Meinert suffered five fractures in his face in the PDS game,” said Quirk.

“We brought Taylor Heilman in because had played some soccer before. He made 20 saves against St. Benedict’s in his first game. He is still learning the position. Chris is hoping to be back in a week or so. He should be back just as we start the county tournament.”

Quirk is confident the Raiders can get back on the right track. “I think we just need to regain some confidence,” said Quirk.

“We have a week off before our next game against Hill on Saturday. We have a few things to work on, starting with our finishing. We will be working on conditioning until Thursday. We need to work on defending free kicks and corner kicks.”

The team is relying on its trio of senior stars, Bailey Hammer, Felix Dalstein, and Gonzalez, to give it some good work.

“Bailey and Felix need to step it up, they have to realize that they are seniors and this is it for them,” said Quirk.

“They have the ability to play at an exceptional level. When they elevate their game along with Andres Gonzalez, the rest of the team does too.”

With the Raiders competing in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and the state Prep A tourney as well as going for the MAPL crown, Quirk knows that his team has plenty to play for.

“I am getting excited about the county tournament,” said Quirk. “I think we could get a seed in the middle and we have a chance to win some games. I tell the guys they have three opportunities to make a name for ourselves with counties, Prep A, and MAPL.”

October 9, 2013

sports1Things didn’t start off well for the Princeton University football team last Saturday as it hosted Columbia in the Ivy League opener for both squads.

In its first possession, Princeton went three-and-out with two incomplete passes and a three-yard run. Minutes later, the Tigers shot themselves in the foot as they had two touchdowns called back due to penalties and then missed a field goal as the game remained scoreless midway through the first quarter.

But those early stumbles seemed like ancient history by the end of an afternoon that saw Princeton roll to a 53-7 rout of Columbia, piling up 629 yards of total offense in the process as it improved to 2-1 overall while the Lions dropped to 0-3.

In so doing, the Tigers made history as their 53-point output was the second straight game in which they hit the 50-point mark in the wake of a 50-22 win over Georgetown on September 28, marking the first time the program has scored at least 50 points in back-to-back games since the 1907 campaign when it did so against Bucknell and Wesleyan.

While junior quarterback Quinn Epperly, who triggered the onslaught as he threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more, was proud of the team’s historical accomplishment, he doesn’t think fans will have to wait for a century to see more such offensive fireworks.

“It is what we have been practicing for,” said Epperly, who connected on 19-of-25 passes for 272 yards and rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries.

“We knew what we were capable of. We knew this is what should be the usual and we haven’t been performing up to the standard in years past. This is really just the beginning of what should be a very high scoring offense.”

In Epperly’s view, the team’s offensive prowess comes down to a simple formula.

“I think it is just hard work,” said Epperly, who was later named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.

“We have been up here, not just me, but almost all of the guys have been up here all summer, working and throwing multiple times a week and working out everyday. I think the work that we have put in is finally starting to pay off. It is not finished nor have we done much so far you are starting to see a little bit of what it is about and how it is paying off.”

A beaming Princeton head coach Bob Surace was pleased with the second straight 50-point outburst but sounded a cautionary note.

“I told the guys I was proud of them,” said Surace. “You can’t take anybody lightly, especially us from what we have been through. We need to continue to practice well, we need to practice with effort and play focused football. I told them that I am going to watch that video and there are going to be as many corrections this week as there have been. We got a punt blocked; we had scores called back because of penalties. Our kickoff coverage was inadequate so we are going to work on some things and we have to keep improving. The teams we play week to week are going to be quality opponents and we have got to get better.”

Although the Tiger offense turned heads, Surace was quick to credit the defensive effort as Princeton held Columbia to five first downs, -6 yards rushing, and 139 yards of total offense.

“It is a team thing, it is not just the offense.” asserted Surace. “When we struggled and had an early drive and didn’t get much and then we had two scores taken off the board and then missed a field goal, we just kept playing. The defense kept getting the ball back so I do think there is a team concept to that. I think they really complemented each other well. It seems like that is the best we have played since I have been here in forcing three-and-outs.”

Senior linebacker Jason Ray, who had five tackles on the day, said the defense did gain strength from offense’s dominance.

“When they have long drives, we have more time to rest,” said Ray. “Since Lehigh, we really had a focus of getting off the field on third down. When we are fresh coming out there after the offense scores on a 12-play drive, it makes a big impact on us because we are able to give it all we have on those three downs and get off the field.”

The first of those long scoring drives came late in the first quarter when Princeton marched 85 yards on seven plays to go ahead 7-0 after Epperly hit Roman Wilson with a 13-yard touchdown pass.

The Tigers ended the quarter in the middle of a drive which culminated with an Epperly touchdown run of three yards to make it a 14-0 game with 14:26 left in the half. That march covered 62 yards on nine plays.

Princeton increased its lead to 22-0 when it went 80 yards on 10 plays as Epperly hit Seth DeValve for a 20-yard scoring strike. Tyler Roth hit Joe Bonura with a pass for a two-point conversion.

Epperly ran and passed the Tigers down the field on its next possession. The junior lefty rushed for 19 yards and threw for 30 more as Princeton marched 63 yards in 13 plays, scoring on an Epperly pass to Wilson to put the Tigers ahead 29-0.

After Columbia struck for its only score of the game on a 70-yard pass play, the Tigers were on the move again. With Epperly finding Matt Costello for a 39-yard pass play, Princeton got to the Lion 20. For the third time of the half, Epperly  chucked a TD pass to Wilson, this one covering 20 yards as the Tigers took a 36-7 lead into intermission. Senior Wilson ended the day with  nine catches for 144 yards and those three touchdowns.

In the second half, Princeton pounded Columbia into submission, scoring on an Epperly one-yard TD run and a Nolan Bieck field goal in the third quarter to make it 46-7. Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore Dre Nelson got loose for the Tigers, racing 55 yards to the Columbia nine and then sprinting to paydirt on the next play for the final score of the day as Princeton eclipsed the 50-point mark to go up 53-7.

Basking in the glow of the win, Surace pointed to the team’s unity as a key factor in its success.

“Everybody is together in the locker room after a game or a practice. That is the only way you can work with multiple quarterbacks, multiple receivers, multiple running backs. You really see a true team. Alex Ford is getting a pick at the end and the guys are going nuts. Having played on some good teams and having coached some good teams, that camaraderie is important. They are not all going to be like this. There are going to be a lot of tough, tight games.”

With Princeton hosting a tough Patriot League foe Lafayette (1-3) this Saturday, Surace is determined to keep his team from resting on its laurels.

“There is that phrase, you are either coaching it or allowing it to happen,” said Surace.

“Last week, everybody is patting our guys on the back and everybody is telling them how good they are. I know the errors that we made. You are not going to win games against certain teams if you have a blocked punt. If you can’t execute field goals better, that is not going to happen. When you get points taken off the board twice in a series, that is a hard thing. So we have corrections to make if we are going to play better against Lafayette.”

Epperly, for his part, believes that Princeton is primed to play better and better as the fall unfolds. “I definitely think that we are all very confident and know what we can do,” said Epperly.

“I think now it is just going out and proving it and with every win, I think more confidence is going to come.”

 

sports2Cassidy Arner has been around the Princeton University field hockey program for nearly half her life.

As a middle schooler, she watched her older sister, Candi, a star for Princeton from 2005-09 who was a two-time All-Ivy League performer.

The younger Arner kept the family’s Princeton tradition alive, joining the Tiger program in 2011.

After making 31 appearances off the bench in her first two seasons with the team, junior Arner has worked her way into the starting lineup this fall.

“I have been coming to games for so long and I always wanted to be part of it,” said Arner. “It is a great thing for me to finally be on the field. This feels awesome.”

Last Friday against visiting Columbia, Arner did some great things for 11th-ranked Princeton, scoring two first half goals as the Tigers overwhelmed the Lions 5-0, improving to 6-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.

In reflecting on the tallies, which were her first two scores of the season, Arner said she was in the right place at the right time.

“It happened really quickly; Amanda Bird just gave an amazing aerial over to me,” said Arner, assessing her first goal, which came just 24 seconds into the contest.

“I could not have asked for a better pass or a better set-up. I was just lucky to be there. That play on the second goal was just an amazing give and go from Allegra Mango. Again, my teammates just set me up perfectly. That is the great part about being on Princeton field hockey.”

A recent change of position from defense to midfield has helped Arner take a bigger part in the Tiger attack.

“This is my second game playing midfield; I was defense before at the beginning of the year,” said Arner.

“I am really liking it. It has taken some getting used to, hopefully this trend continues. I think it definitely helps my confidence; it is always nice to score. It was just getting used to the position and getting used to taking shots, which is not something I have been doing in the past.”

In the win Friday, Princeton peppered Columbia, building a 31-4 edge in shots on the evening as it scored its five goals in the first half and cruised from there.

 “We did a really good job of clicking and persisting in the circle, which is what we talk about a lot in practice,” said Arner.

“Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] always says be strong on the ball in the circle, don’t let it out. I think tonight we were really threatening in there for the first time.”

Holmes-Winn, for her part, liked the way her team attacked the game. “We just wanted them to be really decisive within the parameters of the game plan,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals from junior Allison Evans in the win over the Lions with freshman Cat Caro also scoring as defending national champion Princeton won its 16th straight Ivy contest.

“I think we did a very good job of stretching Columbia out and playing the simple ball, which is something we have been talking about, and training on a lot. I thought they performed well, especially in the first half.”

Arner’s performance certainly gave the Tigers a lift. “Cassie has been playing halfback for us and she has been working really hard since moving to that wing position,” said Holmes-Winn.

“She was very threatening, which is something we have been asking that position to be. She delivered so that was really good to see.”

Princeton also played some really good defense in the victory over the Lions.

“It starts with the strikers and goes through the midfield and the backs,” said Holmes-Winn.

“When you defend, it is absolutely a team effort and every single line is responsible for getting good pressure on the ball and making sure that we are layering in behind. I thought that was a real highlight.”

While Princeton has been under pressure, having lost three of its last five games coming into Friday, Holmes-Winn believes her squad is heading in the right direction.

“We haven’t turned the corner yet but I think we are getting closer,” said Holmes-Winn.

“This team has a major upside, which is so encouraging. We just have to keep prioritizing and just kind of tic-tacking our way through the things we know we need to do better to get to that next level. We are nowhere near our potential, which is really exciting. We have to keep making progress, though.”

Noting that the team’s losses came to Top-10 teams (Penn State, Syracuse, and Connecticut), Holmes-Winn believes those setbacks could sow the seeds for  success later in the season.

“I never like to lose and I don’t think you have to lose to learn lessons,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team is next in action when it plays at top-ranked Maryland (10-0) on October 11 and at Delaware (8-3) on October 13.

“You play those teams so you can learn about yourself. It’s not about where we are now; it is about where we are in November. We need those games so we understand what we can do and what we can’t do. Then we can kind of create around those boundaries so we are playing within our means because that is critical in terms of long term success.”

In Arner’s view, the win over Columbia is a harbinger of good things to come.

“I think this was a step forward for our confidence and just knowing that we are able to be scrappy like that,” said Arner.

“It is really going to count in the games coming up. I think all the pieces are definitely there. It is just about coming to the game with the mentality we had in the first half here, attacking, threatening, and playing with confidence.”

 

sports3As the Princeton High boys’ soccer team has dealt with losing 12 seniors from last year’s state championship team, the defense has been a particular area of concern this fall.

The Little Tigers, who tied Ramapo 1-1 last December in the state Group III finals, lost their whole starting backline to graduation.

For Dalton Sekelsky, who moved into the starting center half position this fall for his senior campaign, there were some nervous moments early on.

“I thought there would be a little bit of trouble,” said Sekelsky. “We saw that in the first week of preseason in the summer but we have pulled it together and we are pretty solid.”

Last Thursday, Sekelsky and the PHS defense showed that it is becoming more than solid as the Little Tigers blanked Steinert 2-0. It was the fifth straight shutout of the Little Tigers, who last surrendered a goal against Hightstown on September 10 in the first half of a 2-1 win.

In Sekelsky’s view, the clean sheet against Steinert was another step forward in the growth of the new defensive unit.

“It has been a good development for them coming into this season,” said Sekelsky.

“They are pretty big kids. They are pretty good with the ball, they don’t lose it too much.”

As the veteran member of the backline group, Sekelsky has taken extra responsibility on his shoulders. “I try to keep everybody focused in the midfield and the back,” noted Sekelsky.

The Little Tigers had an extra motivation to win the game in the wake of PHS christening its new turf field in late September.

“We wanted to win this game and keep a tradition going on this new turf,” said Sekelsky. “None of the soccer teams or field hockey has lost on it yet.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe knew that his team faced a fight with the Spartans as the teams have traditionally played hard-fought battles.

“It is always a good test, always a very close game,” said Sutcliffe.

“Last year, I think it was 1-0 us in the second overtime. Credit to Steinert and their play, I just thought we found a way to win today.”

With the game knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime, PHS ratcheted up its intensity over the last 40 minutes of the contest.

“I felt like we got a little more familiar with things as the game went on,” said Sutcliffe.

“We pressed on; we were able to find one another better. We were able to get into the front third and hit the final pass a little better and find one another a little better.”

PHS broke the ice when freshman Andrew Goldsmith tallied his first career goal with 16:50 remaining in regulation.

“There was a good bit of play that preceded the goal,” said Sutcliffe. “Nick Halliday hit a good square ball to him and credit to Andrew for hitting a first-time, left-footed shot off the post. He will remember that for a long time.”

The combination of seniors Kevin Halliday and John Blair produced some good play in tallying the second goal as Blair chased down a ball and then Halliday volleyed a shot that deflected off a Steinert defender and found the back of the net.

“Kevin’s mentality in and around the area is to let it fly and take some chances and that is what happens sometimes,” said Sutcliffe, whose team topped Ewing 4-0 last Thursday to improve to 7-1-1 with Blair contributing a goal and two assists and Halliday adding a goal. “But credit to John Blair for really doing the hard work prior to that, that really put us in a good spot.”

Sutcliffe likes the mentality his rebuilt defense has been showing as it has now gone nearly a month without yielding a score.

“We keep working hard to improve on that; we are fine-tuning things,” said Sutcliffe. “I am very proud of another clean sheet. It is a lot of progress.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, Sekelsky’s improvement is a big reason for the success of the defense.

“Dalton has been fantastic, he just keeps getting better and better every week,” said Sutcliffe. “His feet are getting better, his touch is getting better. He is just reading the game and the little nuances of the game.

Junior goalie Laurenz Reimitz has also been a bright spot, getting better and better with a year of starting experience under his belt.

“What a great stride Laurenz had made; all credit to him, he has worked so hard,” said Sutcliffe.

“In training, we have really emphasized hitting a lot of flighted balls into him and putting him under pressure. He is doing well in commanding the box and communicating with the back four. He has put himself in a position where we not only trust him, but we can relay on him in a big game. I am so happy about that.”

With his team riding an 8-game unbeaten streak, Sutcliffe is very happy with how things are going.

“We are so focused on the little things on the field,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at WW/P-N on October 12 before hosting Nottingham on October 15.

“The record is one thing and that is the most important thing in the end. In terms of our quality, we are playing better soccer. We have been able to keep the ball primarily and have been better in and around the penalty area.”

Sekelsky, for his part, believes things are going to end well for the Little Tigers this fall.

“I am pretty sure we can go for a state championship again,” said Sekelsky. “This is how we started out last season and we are going in a good direction.”

 

Start of boys raceWhile Mark Shelley is hoping for good results in his first year guiding the Princeton High boys’ cross country team, he is more focused on building the foundation for success.

“I am process-oriented,” said Shelley, who joined the program as an assistant coach last year before replacing John Woodside as head coach this fall.

“I don’t talk about beating WW/P-S, for instance, I talk about running the best race possible. I am really focused on daily development. We really, really try for a developmental approach: we try to not put pressure on the runners.”

Last Saturday, PHS handled the pressure of the Shore Coaches Invitational with aplomb, taking third of 24 teams in the Varsity C race.

“We had a lot of guys set personal bests at Holmdel and others got their first experience. Our No. 3 runner [Kevin Vahdat] dropped out due to a leg problem, which was smart. If he had run his regular race, we could have won.”

Junior star Jacob Rist ran a terrific race, taking fifth overall in a time of 16:53.

“Jacob is very coachable,” said Shelley. “He listens carefully and asks good questions about training. He has perfect running form. Last year he was in the high 18s at the Shore meet and was at 17:30s in the state meet so he improved by 30 seconds. Breaking 17 at Holmdel is legit.”

PHS boasts another legit star in battle-tested senior Conor Donahue, the eighth-place finisher at the Shore meet in a time of 17:04. “Conor is very knowledgeable about the sport,” said Shelley.

“He understands his body and the difference between being sore and injured. He struggled with quad tightness and Jim Smirk has really helped him with that. Conor has been a leader for us, not just in running. The seniors have done a very good job working with the younger runners and setting a good example. Cross country is a sport that requires a lot of self-discipline.”

Freshman Alex Roth has done a good job of following the example set by the PHS veterans, taking 18th last Saturday in a time of 17:37.

“He has taken off tremendously, he has been in the low 17s,” said Shelley, noting that the program has a good group of freshmen, including Ty Watsky, who ran an 18:15 time in the JV race at the Shore meet.

“We are trying to keep him within the process. He was hurt a little bit and we had him ride the bike for a few days so he could get his legs back. Alex has been humble; he doesn’t say a lot, he just goes about his business.”

With the county and sectional competitions coming up in a few weeks, Shelly is hoping that his team can take care of business when it counts most.

“I want them to be fast at the right time,” said Shelley, who hopes to have Vahdat and senior Anders Berg at full health in time for those events.

“We have the potential to be competitive in the big meets. To win an elite race, we have to have all our key runners do well on the same day. We want to run our best races at the right time; that is the goal going into the counties and sectionals.”

 

sports6When Neeraj Devulapalli started doing volunteer work five years ago for the National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton (NJTLT), his focus was local.

“I liked the experience and what I started to realize is that the kids at NJTLT only played once a week when they were there,” said Devulapalli, a senior at the Princeton Day School and a boys’ tennis star for the Panthers.

“They had no opportunity to carry it on outside of that, like they can with a sport like basketball. They have the tennis courts at Cadwalader Park but they didn’t have the equipment. They couldn’t just go across the street and get a tennis racket. I wanted to make tennis more accessible. I wanted it to be a more common sport in the area.”

As a result, Devulapalli started gathering tennis equipment for the Trenton youths, putting out collection boxes at the Garden State Tennis Academy in Edison where he trains.

But as Devulapalli got involved in that effort, he realized that the needs stretched far wider than the Trenton area.

“I did a lot of research online and found others doing the same thing,” said Devulapalli.

“I didn’t want to send the equipment to one place,
I wanted to make it a broader, more global thing.”

As a result, he created “Game Set Health!,” a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting and donating used tennis rackets, balls, and equipment across the globe to those in need.

To date, Game Set Health has donated over 1,000 tennis balls, 150 rackets, and other equipment such as shoes, clothes, and strings to New York, Florida, Kenya, India, and Canada in addition to New Jersey.

“The first shipment went to New York, Florida, Canada, and Kenya,” said Devulapalli. “It was 40 balls, 40 rackets, other equipment.”

In order to make that donation, Devulapalli had to navigate through logistical and financial issues.

“I went to UPS in North Brunswick and the first shipment was going to cost $2,000 if they shipped it,” recalled Devulapalli.

“They agreed to pack it for free and then I took it USPS in Kendall Park and we sent it at the less expensive USPS rate. It is a drill now.”

Getting the 501(c)(3) charter status for his organization was another challenge for Devulapalli.

“In the summer after my freshman year, the organization was formally started,” said Devulapalli.

“The 501(c)(3) process takes a while. There is a lot of paper work and it is hard for an underage person to get it started. I needed five adults over 21 who weren’t family to support me.”

Devulapalli has found support for his efforts across the world. “We have formed a network of tennis charities,” said Devulapalli, whose group is global partners with the Victoria Tennis Academy in Kisumu City, Kenya.

“We will have 4-way Skype conference with one guy in Italy and another in Atlanta to talk about ways to increase shipments and figure out more organizations to get involved.”

The recipients of the equipment have shown their gratitude in a number of ways.

“The most prevalent follow-ups are in the form of pictures,” said Devulapalli. “The guy from Kenya is really good about that. The kids are really underprivileged there; they are not only getting rackets and balls, they are getting clothing. I have pictures of kids wearing the clothing to school. The places in Florida and Toronto send me letters; the kids thank you so much.”

Devulapalli is thankful for the equipment donors who have stepped up. “It is a really good feeling, it is great to see how willing people are to help,” said Devulapalli, noting that he has received equipment from as far away as Arkansas and Ohio. “I can see that people care so much.”

While Devulapalli is heading off to college next fall, he is more than willing to maintain the organization.

“I am 100 percent planning to keep this going when I am in college,” said Devulapalli, who is opening a website, gamesethealth.org, and hopes to organize a tennis/soccer tournament at PDS to raise money for the effort.

“My parents and family have really helped a lot. My mom knows the shipment drill. I am trying to recruit members by trying to get local involvement in schools.”

For Devulapalli, managing the organization has definitely been a labor of love.

“It is a year-round enterprise,” said Devulapalli. “I spend 15-20 hours in a tough week and 6-8 hours in other weeks. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to have a global impact. It is fulfilling; it is fun.”

 

For much of the first half last Wednesday, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team held its own as it hosted cross-town rival Hun.

After surrendering a goal at the 12-minute mark, PDS tightened up defensively until the waning moments of the half when Hun tallied with 3:20 remaining to take a 2-0 lead into intermission.

The roof fell in for the Panthers in the beginning of the second half as they surrendered two goals in the first three minutes on the way to a 5-1 loss.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that it was a tough day for his side.

“It was one of those games, the changes of circumstance hurt us,” said Murphy.

sports5“We tried to play out of the back and I thought for 15 minutes we were keeping the ball very well. One thing happens and because of the youthfulness of the side, they panic and can’t settle down any more.”

The combination at forward of junior Marco Pinheiro and senior Culver Duquette were on the ball as they put pressure on the Hun defense.

“I think Marco and Culver certainly led the line,” said Murphy, who got a goal from Pinheiro in the second half of the Hun game on a penalty kick.

“They were enterprising, they were creative. They brought a new dynamic. They went at them and did not let the opposition settle. They kept the speed of the game up; the tempo was tremendously high. They brought in a lot of subs by then but it still didn’t change the dynamic. They were keeping their back four honest certainly.”

Along the backline, junior Christian Vik provided some dynamic play for the Panthers.

“We took one of the forwards, Christian Vik, and put him at central defender,” said Murphy. “He played extremely well back there.”

With PDS hosting Rutgers Prep on October 10 before playing at Pennington on October 15, Murphy is hoping that his squad will show some forward movement.

“Now with the accumulation of injuries and just moving people around, we have got last year’s midfield and forwards playing in the back,” said Murphy, whose team was missing five players due to injury last Saturday as it fell 5-0 to the Lawrenceville School to drop to 3-5-2.

“It will work itself out and if it doesn’t this year, it will give them some experience for next year. They are a young squad. There is still hope. You play it as it goes.”

 

sports7Even though the Hun School girls’ soccer team lost 4-2 to Pennington School last week in falling to 0-7 on the season, Joanna Hallac liked what she saw from her players.

“We came out playing real hard,” said Hun first-year head coach Hallac, whose team led 2-1 at halftime against Pennington. “We didn’t hold on to the lead but it gave the girls hope and motivation.”

Last Friday against visiting Springside/Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.), Hun came out hard again and took a 1-0 lead at intermission. This time, the Raiders built on the halftime advantage and pulled away to a 4-0 victory.

“We were really due for a win and the girls were convinced that it would come on Friday,” said Hallac, who got goals from Marleigh Nociti, Ashley Maziarz, Jess Johnson, and Tanya Clark in the triumph.

“We put it all together for 80 minutes. We were playing well from the start but at halftime I told them we were letting Springside hang around and we needed to play even better. We played a great second half and really took care of business. It was really nice to see.”

Two of the team’s veterans, senior tri-captain Olivia Braender-Carr and junior tri-captain Maziarz, have been doing well for the Raiders.

“I have tried Braender-Carr in the midfield but she makes such good runs out of the back and distributes the ball so well that I am keeping her on defense,” said Hallac of Braender-Carr, who tallied two assists in the win on Friday.

“Ashley Maziarz has come back and having her out there is a calming presence; she settles things through the back and the midfield.”

Some of the squad’s younger players are calming down on the field. “Abby Gray has been close to scoring, she is really coming along,” said Hallac of the freshman, who picked up an assist against Springside.

“Marleigh Nociti has been playing well.  She is really fast and she is using her speed to her advantage. She is not just firing shots, she is combining.”

Hallac and her players were fired up to break into the win column. “It was a relief,” said Hallac, who previously served as a head coach at Weston High (Conn.).

“It is hard going into a new situation and knowing what they have done in the past and what the expectations are. The girls really needed this. They have been playing well but they needed validation in the form of a win.”

In the wake of the victory, Hallac is hoping her team can start rolling as it opens its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) campaign this Saturday at the Blair Academy.

“I told them I would rather peak in the middle and at the end; we are heading into the meat of our schedule,” said Hallac.

“We need to work on consistency of effort and consistency of play. We need to play the ball on the ground and possess it offensively. We have talked about capitalizing on opportunities, both on mistakes by our opponents and when we get a shot. We also can’t make lapses that give the other teams chances.”

 

sports8In the first three games of the season, the Hun School football team has done a lot of good things.

The Raiders have displayed an ability to move the ball on the ground and in the air. In the trenches, they have been physical and hard-nosed.

But a failure to take care of the ball has left the Raiders without a win to show for their good work. The latest case in point came last Saturday when Hun made four turnovers in falling 30-14 at Germantown Academy (Pa.).

“That seems to be a recurring theme,” said Hun head coach John Law in reflecting on his team’s sloppiness with the ball.

“We have cleaned up a lot of things but the last thing that we have to take care of is the turnovers. What is frustrating for us is that these kids can play.”

As a result, Law and his coaches are going to harp on playing error-free football.

“We need to be mentally complete; we need to play a complete game,” said Law.

“We play a schedule that is good and that is what we want. We are going to do some drills this week focusing on ball security.”

Hun is getting some very good play at running back from junior Christopher Sharp, who had a big game in a losing cause last Saturday, gaining 182 yards on 19 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown jaunt.

“That is what has got us excited; we have some young kids handling the ball who are really talented,” said Law.

“It was a breakout game for Christopher. He is a special kid, he is learning how to read holes and trust the holes and when to break it out. He is a rising star.”

Senior linebacker/running back Colton Jay Jumper has emerged as a star for the Raiders in his first year with the program.

“Jumper is a leader for us on defense, we’ll go as he goes,” asserted Law of the Lookout Mountain, Tenn. native. “He has a nose for the ball. He hadn’t run the ball at his other school. We have him doing lead blocking and running the ball in short yardage situations.

Another leader for Hun has been senior receiver/defensive back Cam Dudeck. “I think Cam Dudeck is making catches and is helping us on defense,” said Law of Dudeck, who made six receptions for 49 yards last Saturday.

“I am really happy with him. He has been so consistent and I hope that rubs off on some of the other players.”

As Hun prepares to play at the Blair Academy on October 12 in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener, Law knows that his team has to play more consistently to knock off the Buccaneers.

“It is always a big one for us,” said Law. “It will be an old-fashioned slugfest. They know us and we know them. It is a heavyweight fight with the last one standing as the winner and hopefully that will be us. The kids are ready to go, we have some talented kids. We are not surviving the mistakes right now. A win would give them great momentum.”

 

l-r Hun #8 and Stuart #6Over the first 10 games of the season, Madison Kirton hadn’t scored a goal for the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team.

But as Stuart hosted WW/P-N last Thursday, junior forward Kirton produced a breakthrough effort, scoring a goal as time ran out in the first half and then tallying again three minutes into the second half.

Sparked by Kirton’s heroics, Stuart pulled away to a 4-1 victory over the Northern Knights as it improved to 4-7.

Afterward, a beaming Kirton acknowledged that she was thrilled to find the back of the cage. “I was in a little bit of a slump so definitely this built up my confidence and it built up everybody’s confidence,” said Kirton.

Although Stuart had lost 4-0 to Hun a day before the WW/P-N contest, Kirton had the sense that the Tartans were poised for a big performance.

“We definitely took what we learned off the field yesterday and applied it today,” said Kirton. “We were more aggressive today and we tried to communicate more on and off the field. I think just supporting each other was the biggest thing that helped us win today.”

While Stuart dominated possession in the early stages of the contest, it was a goal by sophomore star Tori Hannah midway through the first half that got things rolling in the right direction for the Tartans.

“Tori definitely set the tone for the game today,” said Kirton. “That goal in the first half made us more tenacious.”

Kirton displayed her tenacity minutes later when she got loose in the circle and banged home a feed from sophomore Sam Servis to give the Tartans a 2-0 lead at halftime.

“I was paying attention to Sam,” recalled Kirton. “We have learned to be aware of where everyone is on the field. She had a great pass to me and I just got my stick there.”

After WW/P-N scored a goal early in the second half to make it a 2-1 game, Kirton struck again, converting a pass from Servis into her second tally.

“You can’t let it effect you when they score,” said Kirton. “You just have to keep battling and that’s what we did. The score for us doesn’t really matter, it is more how you play the game and you come back. I was definitely more aggressive in the circle today.”

Kirton certainly enjoys playing with Servis as the two are developing a solid connection on attack.

“We definitely look for each other because she is the right inner and I am the left so it is easy to do those crosses,” said Kirton. “We try to play with each other up the field.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik liked the way that her team performed all over the field in the victory over WW/P-N.

“I thought all of them played well,” asserted Bruvik. “The win was a total team effort and everyone’s contributions were timely and significant to the outcome. I think every player felt she had a solid performance and was inspired by her teammates’ efforts.”

Bruvik acknowledged that Kirton’s finishing touch proved to be inspirational for the Tartans. “Madison had two big goals,” said Bruvik. “I thought her, as well as the rest of the kids, were positioning themselves beautifully. We are doing a better job of anticipating; before we were doing way too much watching the game. We have been working on a lot of full field transition, where you need to be off ball.”

Sophomore Hannah has been giving Stuart a needed spark on the offensive end.

“We brought a freshman up, Izzy Engel, who has done a nice job at that right midfield spot which allows Tori more freedom to push up,” explained Bruvik. “Tori is really playing an offensive mid. She is defensive minded but it gives her a chance to carry the ball and see her teammates and put the ball on goal herself. She has always had that innate athletic ability but the stick skills are just more consistent right now.”

In Bruvik’s view, the win over WW/P-N is a sign that her team is developing better consistency. “I think it is a confidence builder,” said Bruvik, whose team hosts the Blair Academy on October 9 in its annual Play for the Cure breast cancer awareness fundraiser.

“They were looking for each other better. They are filling the spaces better and trying to put the ball into the spaces better. It was just timing and sheer effort today.”

Kirton, for her part, believes things are looking up for the Tartans. “I think moving forward we are ready to end the season with a bang,” said Kirton.

 

October 2, 2013
GROUND CONTROL: Princeton University quarterback Quinn ­Epperly heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Epperly scored four touchdowns rushing to help Princeton top Georgetown 50-22. Epperly became the first Tiger to tally four rushing touchdowns in a game since legendary running back Keith Elias accomplished the feat in 1993. The Tigers piled up 326 yards on the ground against the Hoyas in improving to 1-1. Epperly gained 69 yards on five carries, highlighted by a 59-yard touchdown jaunt in the second half. Princeton hosts Columbia (0-2) on October 5 in the Ivy League opener for both teams.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GROUND CONTROL: Princeton University quarterback Quinn ­Epperly heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Epperly scored four touchdowns rushing to help Princeton top Georgetown 50-22. Epperly became the first Tiger to tally four rushing touchdowns in a game since legendary running back Keith Elias accomplished the feat in 1993. The Tigers piled up 326 yards on the ground against the Hoyas in improving to 1-1. Epperly gained 69 yards on five carries, highlighted by a 59-yard touchdown jaunt in the second half. Princeton hosts Columbia (0-2) on October 5 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In routing Georgetown 50-22 last Saturday, the Princeton University football team did something it hadn’t accomplished in nearly 13 years.

It marked the first time a Tiger squad had reached the 50-point mark in a game since a 55-28 win over Brown on October 19, 2000.

But as a measure of the heightened expectations around a Princeton program that went 5-5 last fall after back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Tiger head coach Bob Surace wasn’t thrilled by his team’s performance in the win over the Hoyas.

“We didn’t play great by any means,” said Surace, whose team improved to 1-1 with the victory.

“We missed a lot of opportunities in the second quarter. We still have a lot of room to grow. It is good to get a win and be correcting things off of that.”

But coming a week after Princeton had squandered a 22-3 halftime lead in losing 29-28 to No. 18 Lehigh, Surace was happy to see his team close the deal as it outscored the 1-4 Hoyas 21-7 in the second half after building a 29-15 lead by intermission.

“We used the term finish,” said Surace. “It is not just finishing games, it is finishing plays. In the Lehigh game, they converted on third and fourth downs by inches and we had opportunities to get first downs and we came up just short.”

The Tigers came up big in the running game Saturday, gaining 326 yards on the ground with Brian Mills leading the way with 110 yards and junior quarterback Quinn Epperly rushing for four touchdowns, becoming the first Tiger to do so since legendary running back Keith Elias accomplished the feat in 1993.

“Each week we look at ways to run the ball,” noted Surace. “We have a good stable of running backs and we have some quarterbacks who can run the ball. We have been good with the ball handling so far. In week one, DiAndre Atwater had more than 100 yards and this week, Mills had more than 100. We have been running the ball hard and finishing runs. The receivers are blocking well downfield. I have really been happy with that.”

Surace wasn’t happy to see his team fall behind 12-8 last Saturday. “We were up 8-0 and they had a really good drive and got a touchdown,” said Surace. “We got the ball in bad field position and they ruled a play a fumble and we didn’t see it that way. It is one of those things that happens, whether it is right or wrong, you have to go to the next play. The sports analytic people say there is no such thing as momentum. Momentum is your next day’s starting pitcher or the next play.”

The Tigers did regain some momentum, forging ahead 15-12 on a one-yard touchdown run by Epperly late in the first quarter and then building the lead to 22-12 one possession later as Mills bolted 53 yards for a touchdown.

Strong defensive play helped the Tigers hold the fort when they hit a lull offensively in the second quarter.

“I like that we complemented each other in the second quarter,” said Surace.

“We struggled with our protection on offense and our defense played unbelievable. We scored on the last drive of the half and then we got the ball back in the second half and scored on the first drive. We got the ball back and scored again. It was a really good sign.”

Surace is hoping for another good effort by his squad as it hosts Columbia (0-2) on October 5 in the Ivy league opener for both teams.

“We are both 0-0 in the league,” said Surace. “We have had our home opener and we have had our road opener and we have handled things well. I hope that playing a team like Lehigh (now 4-0 and ranked 10/13 nationally) will help us down the road, they beat New Hampshire on Saturday.”

In Surace’s view, Columbia has the ability to beat anyone in the Ivy League.

“They have a running back, Marcorus Garrett, who was first-team All-Ivy, he is as good as it gets, he is averaging 7 or 8 yards a carry,” said Surace of the back who has 240 yards on 30 carries this season.

“The scores in their games have dictated that they throw the ball. Any time you have a running back like that, there is a chance that you can get into a slugfest. Their receivers have been doing a good job. They have a quarterback [Trevor McDonagh] starting his second game; he is a good football player. He is a kid we really liked. On defense, they are a strong group up front and they have speed on the back end.”

While Columbia has suffered two lopsided losses this season, falling 52-7 to Fordham and 37-14 to Monmouth, Surace believes the scores are deceiving.

“They have struggled with turnovers; I think they have made eight turnovers in two games and that is a hard way to win,” said Surace.

“Pete Mangurian is a great coach, he was in the NFL forever. The fear is that they clean up the turnovers.”

If Princeton can build on its effort against Georgetown, it could clean up in the matchup against the Lions.

“I thought the first game we didn’t finish and last week we took a step in the right direction,” said Surace.

“I think the effort showed up in the box score. We have played together, how we handle success is key.”

MILLER TIME: Princeton University men’s soccer player Josh Miller gets ready to clear the ball in recent action. Sophomore defender Miller has been a bright spot for the Tigers, who fell 1-0 in overtime to Florida Gulf Coast University, to move to 2-5 on the season. The Tigers open their Ivy League campaign when they play at Dartmouth (4-0-3) on October 5.

MILLER TIME: Princeton University men’s soccer player Josh Miller gets ready to clear the ball in recent action. Sophomore defender Miller has been a bright spot for the Tigers, who fell 1-0 in overtime to Florida Gulf Coast University, to move to 2-5 on the season. The Tigers open their Ivy League campaign when they play at Dartmouth (4-0-3) on October 5.

Hosting Florida International (FIU) on Friday and Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) two days later, the Princeton University men’s soccer got off to a slow start in both contests.

On Friday, the Tigers were outshot 11-3 by FIU in the first half but were able to eke out a 1-0 lead at intermission and then pull away to a 4-2 victory as Cameron Porter and Thomas Sanner each scored two goals.

Things didn’t go so well on Sunday, however, when Princeton fell 1-0 in overtime as it was outplayed in the first half and was unable to find the back of the net over the last 40 minutes of regulation despite outshooting FGCU 12-4 in that stretch.

In the wake of the loss to FGCU, Princeton head coach Jim Barlow made no effort to hide his frustration.

“We had a really, really tough first half and put ourselves in position to lose a close game because we started so poorly,” said Barlow, whose team dropped to 2-5 with the setback to the Eagles.

“Gulf Coast was pretty sharp in the first half but we just weren’t ready to play today. It was the same the other night. FIU killed us in the first half. I don’t know why we are starting so slowly and taking such a long time to get into it.”

While Princeton did get into a better rhythm in the second half, it was too little, too late.

“The second half was better; we did create chances but we didn’t put them away,” said Barlow.

“There is just so much parity in college soccer, to play well in spurts like that is giving the other team a chance to win the game on one play. We didn’t really give a chance away after halftime until the first overtime when they got two chances. It was a big game for us and we didn’t come out sharp. It is frustrating. We see a lot of potential in spurts and in stretches but we would like to be able to count on a certain level of play from enough guys in every game so you know what you are going to get from game to game.”

The Tigers are getting a high level of play from defenders Billy McGuinness and Josh Miller along with midfielder Myles McGinley.

“Billy McGuinness and Josh Miller were awesome; those two guys are just so rock solid in the center back,” said Barlow.

“When we are having days where we are playing really poorly like we were in the first half, those two guys are still putting out fires and bailing people out and saving the day time and time again. Those two guys deserve a lot of credit when a lot of guys in front of them are having bad days. It is good to have Myles healthy again. That was a plus for the weekend, having gone a few games without him. He is an important player for us and he had a pretty good second half too.”

As Princeton starts its Ivy League campaign with a game at Dartmouth (4-0-3) on October 5, it is going to be important for the Tigers to show urgency from the opening whistle.

“Every Ivy League game is such a battle and the competing part is raised to an even higher level so that part is going to be really important,” said Barlow.

“If we have stretches like we did in the first half today we are in trouble. So how you work on that is a challenge we will have to figure out during a week of training. We know we have the talent to beat anyone on our schedule if we are sharp. We also know that we have a lot of good teams on our schedule who can beat us. So it is going to be a lot of close games like it always is and we have got to get better.”

FIRST LOOK: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Jesse McDonough keeps her eye on the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman midfielder McDonough scored her first college goal but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 3-2 to visiting Yale in overtime in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 4-2-2 overall and 0-1 Ivy, play at Dartmouth on October 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRST LOOK: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Jesse McDonough keeps her eye on the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman midfielder McDonough scored her first college goal but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 3-2 to visiting Yale in overtime in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 4-2-2 overall and 0-1 Ivy, play at Dartmouth on October 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A year ago, the Princeton University women’s soccer team rallied from an early deficit to pull out a 2-1 overtime win at Yale in the Ivy League opener.

The bounces went the Tigers’ way in that contest as they prevailed when a Bulldog player inadvertently headed in a ball into her own goal on a throw in.

That victory helped catapult Princeton on a memorable campaign which saw it go 7-0 in Ivy play and advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Last Saturday when the rivals met to start their 2013 league campaign, Yale turned the tables on the Tigers, rallying from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to force overtime and then winning the contest 3-2 on a goal against the run of the play.

In reflecting on the setback, a disappointed Princeton head coach Julie Shackford acknowledged that her squad let one get away.

“I thought we did enough to win; we just didn’t finish our chances,” said Shackford, whose team outshot Yale 22-16 on the afternoon, including 4-1 in the extra session. “You can’t let those leads slip away. That was disappointing.”

The Tigers were in the lead much of the day as they jumped ahead 1-0 with 14:28 remaining in the first half as freshman Jesse McDonough converted a feed from junior Lauren Lazo for her first career goal.

After Yale knotted the game at 1-1 early in the second half, Princeton forged back ahead 2-1 as freshman Haley Chow found the back of the net on a scramble in front of the goal for her first career tally. The Bulldogs tied the game up at 2-2 minutes later on a goal by Melissa Gavin and neither team scored over the rest of regulation.

In the first overtime, Princeton put the pressure on, generating four shots and dominating possession. But Yale got loose on a counterattack and Paula Hagopian scored to win the game with 1:16 left in the first extra session.

The breakthrough tallies by McDonough and Chow were highlights for the Tigers.

“I thought Jesse McDonough did well,” said Shackford, whose team moved to 4-2-2 overall.

“I thought Haley Chow came in and did well for us. We definitely have some freshmen who are making contributions.”

While Princeton definitely had its moments, it didn’t show consistency. “It just wasn’t our day,” said Shackford.

“We just weren’t on top of the game for as long as we usually are. There were not enough stretches where we were dominant. I definitely think there were some defensive lapses.”

Despite the lapse against Yale, Shackford is confident that her squad will be in the thick of the Ivy race this fall.

“It was unfortunate; it was a tough Ivy League battle,” said Shackford, whose team gets back into Ivy action when it plays at Dartmouth on October 5.

“We have just got to stick together; as we know it is tough to go through the Ivy League undefeated.”

TOP FLIGHT: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand last Wednesday on her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S in the first singles title match at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Sparked by Rosca’s heroics, PHS placed second of 19 schools in the MCT team standings, piling up 20.5 points as it finished just behind WW/P-S, which had 24 points.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOP FLIGHT: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand last Wednesday on her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S in the first singles title match at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Sparked by Rosca’s heroics, PHS placed second of 19 schools in the MCT team standings, piling up 20.5 points as it finished just behind WW/P-S, which had 24 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After finishing second at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) last fall as a freshman and being seeded No.1 coming into this year’s tourney, it would have been understandable if Christina Rosca felt some pressure.

But Princeton High sophomore Rosca wasn’t fazed by the attention coming her way.

“I didn’t really think about it that much,” said Rosca. “I don’t usually look at draws even in normal tournaments that I play. I just go out and play each point as well as I can, so I never really felt pressure.”

Rosca ended up playing extremely well at the MCT, rolling to the title without losing a set. In the championship match, Rosca posted a 6-1, 6-0 win over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S.

“I thought my serve was very accurate this match,” said Rosca, reflecting on her performance in the final. I was really happy with how I served. Also I think I did a great job with attacking and coming to the net.”

Sparked by Rosca’s heroics, PHS placed second of 19 schools in the MCT team standings, piling up 20.5 points as it finished just behind WW/P-S, which had 24 points.

For Rosca, moving one spot up the ladder at first singles was satisfying. “I am very happy that I was able to play well this year and win,” said Rosca.

“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. I am definitely happy that I was able to play well and do it.”

Rosca has worked hard to become an exceptional player in her own right.

“I think my serve has improved a lot,” asserted Rosca. “Also I think my movement and footwork has gotten better. I am able to transition into the net more efficiently and faster.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert is thrilled with what Rosca brings to the team.

“Obviously Chris was a highlight for us winning at first singles,” said Hibbert.

“She has continued working hard. 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.”

The Little Tigers produced other highlights at the MCT as the first doubles team of Allison Hubert and Nikhita Salgame took second as did the the second doubles pair of Zhenia Dementyev and Gillian Samios. Rory Lewis placed third at second singles while Katelyn Hojelbane took fourth at third singles.

“Overall, we had a good tournament,” said Hibbert. “We got four through to the finals. That’s certainly a great showing. Especially considering that the doubles were moved around, split up a little bit, and didn’t have very much warning.”

The play of Lewis and Hojelbane at singles showed the depth of the Little Tigers.

“Rory won the third place match 0 and 0; she could have played a little bit better in her semifinal match and I think she feels that way as well,” said Hibbert. “But to recover from that and turn around and play such an impressive third place match is important. Katelyn was hoping to have that happen last year but with her sliding up to second singles she was put in a tougher position. She has worked really hard.”

The PHS doubles teams were in a tough position coming into the tournament as the lineups were recently shuffled after Chenchen Wang decided to take the fall off to give a knee injury more time to heal.

“We were scrambling a little bit to put pairings together but I am really pleased with the way both teams played,” said Hibbert, whose team topped WW/P-N 5-0 in a dual match on Monday and hosts Notre Dame on October 2 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 4 and at WW/P-S on October 8.

“They both made the finals which is impressive in a tough county. We are planning on going forward with these girls since the teams did well here. We are going to try to keep these pairings intact. Their positions may swap.”

Hibbert is hoping that the MCT will help toughen up her team for another deep run in the state tournament.

“It is a lot of matches and it is good competition between the best teams in the county,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to the Group III state championship match in 2012.

“It looks like it is one of the closer first and second place finishes. We are very pleased with that result and we hope it will help us going forward.”

In Rosca’s view, PHS has the potential to produce some good results over the rest of the fall in the wake of its effort at the county tourney.

“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence, especially the new pairings, because we didn’t really know how things would turn out in this tournament,” said Rosca.

“They were a little nervous. I think that they did really well. I think we are grouped very well and we can be a great team this year.”