November 28, 2012

SUPER SAVER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Connor Walker thwarts a Lawrenceville player in action last season. Senior netminder Walker will be a pivotal performer for PDS this winter as it faces a daunting schedule that includes several boarding schools and such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, the Hill School tournament, and the Empire Cup. The Panthers open their 2012-13 campaign when they host Malvern Prep (Pa.) on November 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team prospered as it battled through a daunting schedule that included the likes of Lawrenceville, Moses Brown (R.I.), St. Augustine, and the Pingry School, among others.

After going 18-5-1 against such competition, PDS is pushing the envelope this season as it seeks to further raise its profile in New Jersey hockey circles.

“We are going to be playing a tough schedule, a third of the teams we are playing are either boarding schools or have PGs,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, noting that his team will be taking part in such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, the Hill School tournament, and the Empire Cup.

“The kids want to compete against the best. We are not going to surprise anybody this year.”

Bertoli is cautiously optimistic that his team can hold its own against the challenges it will face.

“The guys know that the greater community is excited about the team,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Malvern Prep (Pa.) on November 29 in its season opener.

“We are returning our four top scorers, four good defensemen, and we have a starting goalie back. I am excited but a little apprehensive. There are heavy expectations surrounding this team, many of them self-imposed.”

The return of stellar senior goalie Connor Walker gives PDS the foundation to meet its expectations.

“Connor is one of the top kids in the state record-wise,” noted Bertoli. “I think he went 11-1 as a sophomore and was something like 14-3 last year. He is about 25-4 the last two years. He is a senior and he is confident. He is bigger and stronger. He is a competitor and wants to be in there every night. He will start every game unless he tells me otherwise or he gets hurt.”

Walker will have to be sharp as the Panther defense is a work in progress with the loss of Tyler Olsson to graduation and the absence of Bump Lisk, who is playing junior hockey this winter.

“I think the defense was our strongest point last year; the kids got involved in the offense and did a lot of good things for us,” said Bertoli.

“The biggest concern is losing Tyler, he was a big, strong kid and was the first one out for our penalty kill. C.J. [Young] can play well and I think Eddie [Meyercord] can too. We need the guys to have puck possession and play well in the neutral zone.

In Bertoli’s view, the battle-tested trio of Taran Auslander, Grahame Davis, and Meyercord must play well this winter for PDS to hold the fort.

“Taran, Eddie, and Grahame are seniors and they need to be leaders,” asserted Bertoli.

“They need to play on the power play and the kill and to play extra shifts when we are going with four. We are going to be playing some bigger and older teams and they need to withstand whatever
the teams bring against us. I am trying to instill confidence in them so they will play like we did last year.”

Bertoli is confident that his group of forwards will be productive this winter. “I think we are going to be outstanding up front; I think that is going to be our strength,” maintained Bertoli.

“I don’t think there is a group of centers better in the state than Conrad [Denise], Ross [Colton], and Cody [Triolo]. The biggest challenge to is to juggle the wingers with them and figure out who will contribute the most.  We will have three lines who can score independent of each others.”

Luckily, Bertoli has some good pieces to work with in formulating his lines. “Rob Colton was our leading scorer last year,” said Bertoli.

“Sean Timmons had a shoulder injury last year and I am expecting him to have a breakout year. He has a physical edge to his game that we have been waiting to see. Lewis Blackburn, John Egner, and Connor Bitterman are kids that I expect to step in and contribute. They are juniors and seniors and they know what is going on.”

In order to have another big year, the Panthers are going to have to go hard
every game.

“We need to show up with the right attitude and work ethic,” maintained Bertoli.

“As long as we are ready to compete, we will get our share of wins. The effort is the key.”

So far, Bertoli is getting the right effort on a daily basis. “I am seeing it every day; we have some experienced success and the kids want to feed off of that,” said Bertoli.

“They want to recapture that. We have eight or nine seniors and they want to step up. We have 14 or 15 players back with the same system and most kids in the same roles. They want to play against the best and build on what we did last year.”

HARD DRIVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Lauren Johnson drives to the hoop in a game last season. Senior star guard Johnson will be a key player for the Panthers this winter as they look to improve on the 9-13 mark posted in 2011-12. PDS tips off the upcoming season by hosting Stuart Country Day on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Mika Ryan, coaching the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team last winter was about getting the most out of limited resources.

With a lineup whittled down to six players for much of the season due to a series of injuries that affectionately became known as the “dirty half-dozen,” Ryan applied the coaching acumen built up over her long career to guide the Panthers to a 9-13 record and an unlikely run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

This season, Ryan has more resources at her disposal and is looking forward to figuring out the best way to deploy the talent on her roster.

“We have nine varsity and seven JV players this year; we are much healthier this year in terms of players,” said Ryan, whose coaching journey has included stints as an assistant at Virginia and Rider together with a 10-year run as the head coach of The College of New Jersey women’s program.

“Freddy Young and I are also going to coach the JV. We have been practicing the two teams together. I want them to learn our system and get used to what we do.”

In fact, the program’s strength in numbers has some of last year’s iron women concerned that they aren’t getting pushed enough.

“The captains came to me and said they think we aren’t working hard enough in practice,” said Ryan, whose team tips off the 2012-13 season by hosting hosting Stuart Country Day on December 5.

“I told them it is because we have more numbers and I want them to feel good in February. They have been great at sharing how we do things.”

Ryan feels good about a backcourt which features three battle-tested veterans in senior tri-captains Lauren Johnson and Hannah Levy together with versatile junior Emily Goldman.

“L.J. plays as hard as she can all the time, she only knows one way to play,” maintained Ryan.

“She has worked on her left hand and is working to make her shot more consistent. I think the most improved player since I got to PDS is Hannah Levy. She is a worker, you never have to motivate her. She thinks well and is mentally quick. She is not hesitant to share what the thinks. She will say this isn’t working, maybe we should try this. Goldman has so much versatility. She joined us late because of field hockey but she has brought a winner’s attitude from the success she had this fall. She is so versatile, I will ask her to play another position and she is always willing. I can play her at guard or forward.”

Exemplifying the team’s depth heading into the season, PDS boasts three reserves in junior Tess Zahn, sophomore Erin Murray, and freshman Devika Kumar, who will also see playing time at guard.

“Tess Zahn hit some big shots for us last year and is shooting well,” added Ryan.

“We are happy to have Erin Murray back after she spent a year at Peddie, she is a good ball handler. Devika has a lot of potential. She could be a good swing player. She is active and athletic and can defend a guard but she also has enough size to play inside.”

The Panthers have two good athletes in the frontcourt with promising freshmen Olivia Okorodudu and Morgan Van Liew.

“Okorodudu is fundamentally sound and very coachable; her dad played at Bucknell and her brother plays at WW/P-N,” said Ryan.

“Her footwork is excellent and she is a big, strong young lady.  She has the ability to shoot the 10-12 foot jump shot and we are working in some plays to take advantage of that. Van Liew is 6 feet tall and I think she has gotten taller since coming to PDS. She has played only one year of organized basketball. She has enormous potential and is so coachable.  She wants to learn and is a sponge on the things we coach her. She is ambidextrous and can shoot with either hand within three or four feet.  She is mobile.”

Senior tri-captain Daniela Levitan should provide the leadership to help the freshmen come along.

“Levitan is looking good; she came to us late because she was in the school play but she is working herself into shape,” said Ryan.

“She has dedicated herself to the program after not playing much as a freshman or sophomore. I am impressed by the interest she has taken in the program.”

As a result of PDS’s inside strength, Ryan is making some tactical adjustments.

“We will be going back to a style I like, going inside out,” said Ryan, who noted that the team may run a zone press at times to speed up tempo and take advantage of the height at the back end of the defense. “We have three quality post players this year so we can play that style.”

While Ryan is confident in her team’s strategic approach, she knows that rekindling the spirit that drove the team last winter won’t be easy.

“The thing I am concerned about the most is that we maintain the chemistry we had last year,” said Ryan.

“The thing that I most enjoyed was our team’s character through the ups and downs. They stayed the same people and didn’t get down on themselves. I am telling them this is your team, not my team. I am here to help you get better.”

Ryan is confident her team will get better and better as the winter unfolds. “I think we are a team that might take some lumps early because we are relying on some freshmen in key positions,” said Ryan. “I think we could become a good team as the season goes on.”

SPEED SKATER: Hun School boys’ hockey star Alex Vukasin races up the ice in a game last season. Senior forward Vukasin’s speed and finishing skill make him a top offensive weapon for the Raiders, who will get their 2012-13 season underway by hosting Central Bucks (Pa.) on November 28 at the IceLand Skating Center in Hamilton. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ian McNally brought some high expectations when he took the helm of the Hun School boys’ hockey team last winter.

“The reason I wanted to take this team is that I wanted us to be a top program, I didn’t want an average team,” said McNally, a 2007 Princeton University alum who played for the Tiger men’s hockey program.

“The school has been supportive, we have new treats in terms of equipment; I think we will respond on the ice.”

The Raiders responded well to McNally in his debut campaign, going 10-9-1 and making it to the finals of the Independent Hockey League (IHL) championship game where it fell 2-1 to Pennington in overtime.

In McNally’s view, the title game defeat and some infusion of new talent should help Hun raise the level of its play this winter.

“I think losing the title game last year has given the team extra motivation,” said McNally, whose team opens the 2012-13 season by hosting Central Bucks (Pa.) on November 28.

“We have 12 new guys so there is a lot of new blood. There are guys who don’t know better so there is a lot more competition for positions and more accountability that way.”

Junior goalie Devin Cheifetz has shown accountability from day one of his Hun career.

“We are lucky to have him; he is one of our more valuable players,” said McNally of Cheifetz, a starter since his freshman season.

“He has decent size, good technical skills, and plays the puck well. He is collected on the ice. He is one part of the team that I don’t have to worry about. He helped to organize some of the fall workout stuff, he reaches out to the players through social network stuff. He has the respect of everybody; he has a collected demeanor on the ice.”

Star defensemen Brad Stern, a junior, and senior Eric Szeker have earned the respect of Hun’s foes.

“We have Brad Stern and Eric Szeker back on defense, they were our big two last year,” said McNally.

“Stern is the more offensive guy, the guy on the point. Eric is bigger and reliable down low. Last year, we had to lean heavily on those guys and they probably played too many minutes.”

Hun will be able to lean on some others along the blue line this winter. “We have Dan Seelagy and Andrew Zhou back; we also have J.C. Moritz, a PG from Pennsylvania who is our biggest kid,” said McNally.

“We also have Jonathan Pensler, a freshman and a local kid who should step in. We have a legitimate d-man rotation, that is by far the biggest difference from last year’s team. We just didn’t have the horses on defense last year.”

The Raiders do have some horses at forward in senior Alex Vukasin, junior Alex Karanikolas, junior Alex Bidwell, and senior Peter Nawn.

“Alex Vukasin looks as good as ever; he is very fast, he sprints on the ice,” said McNally, whose group of forwards will also include seniors Jordan Wang, Anton Salienko and Matt Waxman together with juniors Spy Avgoustiniatos and Nick Guns and sophomores Chris Rossi and Ray Demoine.

“He can go as fast with the puck as without it. Karanikolas is a power forward, he is a big bull who works the puck down low and wears you out. Alex Bidwell scored goals for us last year and should have even more this year. Peter Nawn was hurt for about a third of the year but if he is healthy he should get points. We have a rotation of three full lines returning so that is nice.”

McNally believes his team is poised to have a nice season. “We have accountability based on the numbers,” said McNally.

“I expect us to do even better in the league, which means winning it. I want us to do better in non-league play, we have scheduled some better teams. We have added to the number of games as well.”

In order to be one of the better teams in the area, Hun will need to develop some good chemistry.

“With this team, it will be about how the players come together,” asserted McNally.

“It is not strategy or individual skill, it is how close we can get in a short period of time. You are going to work harder and learn your role better if the team matters. If you are playing with your best friends, you try harder than if it is just a group of guys going to the same school.”

CARRY OUT: Hun School girls’ basketball star Carey Million heads to the hoop in action last winter. Hun will be relying on senior forward Million’s tenacity and athleticism as it looks to improve on the 15-12 record it posted last season. The Raiders start 2012-13 regular season action by playing at Pennington on November 30 and then hosting Friends Central on December 4.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup doesn’t have a group of seniors to lead the way as his Hun School girls’ basketball team heads into the 2012-13 season but that doesn’t mean that the squad isn’t battle-tested.

“We only have one senior but the junior group is very experienced, they have been with us for three years,” said head coach Holup, who guided the Raiders to a 15-12 record last winter and a spot in the state Prep A title game.

“This is our first team in a few years with some depth. The past few years we have struggled being in shape and going 32 minutes against the good teams.”

The team’s depth is most evident in the backcourt where the Raiders feature two key returners in junior Anajha Burnett and sophomore Erica Dwyer together with a pair of promising newcomers in sophomore Janelle Mullen, the younger sister of graduated star Jackie Mullen, and junior Erica Brown.

“Anajha is a junior who is in her third year with the program,” said Holup, whose team opens regular season play with a game at Pennington on November 30 and then hosts Friends Central on December 4.

“She has grown as a player and has developed; she has gotten stronger. Erica came on strong last year. She had five 3s against Peddie in the MAPL tournament. She is a more well-rounded player. She is distributing more; instead of being a one-dimensional player. Janelle has big shoes to fill with Jackie. She is a raw talent; she has more basketball potential at this point than Jackie. She is a sophomore and will be with us for three years. Erica Brown can play either guard or forward. She has good court vision and ball handling skills. She has a knack for getting the ball inside and can distribute.”

The team’s lone senior, Carey Million, brings versatility to the frontcourt. “Carey is a three-sport athlete and just signed a letter of intent to play softball at Elon,” said Holup, who posted his 250th career win with Hun’s victory over Lawrenceville in the Prep A semis last February.

“That will allow her to not have pressure; hopefully she can use basketball as a stress release.”

Holup will be counting on junior forward Johnnah Johnson to put pressure on Hun’s foes in the paint.

“Johnnah’s leadership skills are developing; she has taken charge out there, getting the girls started with their stretches,” said Holup.

“She needed to grow up a little. Basketball-wise, she is a pure talent. She still needs to understand the game more to really use her talents. She is a legit D-1 basketball player as long as she keeps her focus on the court and in the classroom. She has big shoulders and we will need her to carry the team as the younger players get used to things.”

If the Raiders can develop team unity, the squad could do some big things this winter.

“As long as the girls play as a team and learn and develop during the season, we should be good,” asserted Holup.

“We have a good mixture of youth and experience. The older girls need to trust the younger girls and the younger girls need to get to know the older girls. The talent is there; it is just a matter of meshing.”

November 21, 2012

TITLE CELEBRATION: Members of the Princeton University field hockey team celebrate after they rallied to beat North Carolina 3-2 in the NCAA Championship game. The Tigers finished the fall at 21-1 as they earned the program’s first-ever national crown.
(Photo by Rick Voight, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Katie Reinprecht felt awful last Sunday morning just hours before the Princeton University field hockey team was slated to face the University of North Carolina in the NCAA Championship game.

“I woke up around 4 a.m. and at first I thought it was nerves; I was having stomach issues, going back and forth to the bathroom,” said Tiger senior midfielder and tri-captain Reinprecht.

“I met with one of the trainers right before breakfast and they thought it was food poisoning. They gave me medication and I was trying to get liquids. I knew I was going to play but I thought I might be running to a trash can during the game.”

As game time approached, Reinprecht was ready to take the field in Norfolk, Va. “The medication settled my stomach and I had two bottles of Gatorade right before the game,” said Reinprecht. “I had so much adrenaline, I had plenty of energy.”

By Sunday afternoon, Reinprecht was experiencing something she had never felt before as she helped second-seeded Princeton rally to a 3-2 win over the top-seeded Tar Heels and earn the program’s first-ever national championship.

“I was still thinking about hitting the ball but I saw Jules [younger sister and Tiger star defender Julia Reinprecht] collapse behind me so I knew it was over,” said Reinprecht, reflecting on the moment when the clock hit 0:00.

“It was an incredible feeling. It was such a team accomplishment. I knew this end was possible if we gave 100 percent.”

For much of the contest, it didn’t look like Princeton was heading to a happy ending.

The Tar Heels had the better of the play in the early going and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Charlotte Craddock goal at the 11:26 mark.

“In the first 10 minutes, we were being outplayed,” said Reinprecht.  “The goal went in and we looked at each other and there was no sense of fear. We stepped it up from there and showed how badly we wanted it.”

Less than six minutes later, Reinprecht stepped up as she fed classmate and fellow captain Kat Sharkey on a penalty corner and the latter slammed in the tying goal.

The teams went into the locker room knotted at 1-1 at intermission and then 11 minutes into the second half Princeton found itself trailing again as Katie Plyler found the back of the cage for the Tar Heels.

Princeton, though, was unfazed. “No one likes to go down in a game like that but we had been in those situations before,” said Reinprecht. “I thought we had the momentum and I didn’t doubt that we could score.”

Reinprecht’s faith proved justified as Allison Evans notched the tying goal at 56:44 and then Amanda Bird tallied three minutes later on a penalty stroke to give Princeton its first lead of the contest.

The Bird tally set up a stomach-turning finale as Princeton held off a dangerous and desperate North Carolina team.

“It was the longest eight minutes; a timeout helped,” said Reinprecht. “We had a defensive priority, even Kat Sharkey was in the defensive circle. We didn’t want to let this slip away, we said we can’t let them tie this up. We had confidence and trust.”

That trust was critical as Princeton lost freshman star Teresa Benvenuti to a hamstring injury in warmup and then senior stalwart Molly Goodman went down with a knee injury 10 minutes into the contest.

“That was one of the most powerful things about the title game, everyone contributed in that game,” asserted Reinprecht. “People had to step up who weren’t used to that role and they rose to the occasion.”

As Reinprecht returned to Princeton this past August after spending a year away from school training with the U.S. national field hockey program and playing in the London Olympics, she was determined to step into a positive leadership role.

“When I came back from the national team, I knew what it was like to play with a talented team but that winning doesn’t correlate unless you put it all out there,” said Reinprecht, who was joined in her year with the national program by her sister along with teammates Michelle Cesan and Sharkey.

“I didn’t want the four of us to be unapproachable; we needed to fit in with the family. Everyone on the team had to be equal.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn points to team unity as the key factor in Princeton’s title run.

“Of course we have talent but it is much more important to have chemistry; I have been around talented teams that didn’t do as well as they should,” said Holmes-Winn, whose squad went 21-1 this fall, setting a program record for most wins in a season.

“I told them before the Duke game [the season opener on August 31] that you will become a family and you will love each other. It is not how talented you are but how hard you are willing to fight for each other. They looked each other in the eyes before the Maryland game [a 3-2 win in the NCAA semis on Friday] and they were ready to play for each other.”

The Tigers were ready for a stiff challenge as they prepared for the clash with the 23-1 Tar Heels, whose roster included former Stuart Country Day standout Jackie Gaudioso-Radvany.

“They are strong at every position,” said Holmes-Winn, noting that Tar Heel forward Craddock and midfielder Kelsey Kolojejchick caused Princeton particular concern.

“We needed to lock down their game changers. We had to limit Craddock’s touches so we put a center mid to overlap in her zone. We told the midfield to run with Kolojejchick but don’t tackle her. We needed to stay in the play. I am proud that we showed the discipline to do that for all the game.”

That task was made harder by the injuries to Benvenuti and Goodman. “To beat North Carolina full‐strength is a huge challenge, but to do it accessing the depth on the bench the way we did is a product of our team’s hard work and preparation,” said Holmes-Winn.

For Holmes-Winn, seeing her players produce a national title evoked a deep sense of pride.

“To win at a place like Princeton is a colossal achievement; we don’t give scholarships,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They are students first and foremost. To be able to do everything they do in the classroom and also be the best in a sport is special. They are so inspiring to be around. As coaches, we can look in the mirror and feel so good about how we do it. They have a wonderful experience as students and athletes.”

As Princeton headed to the University of Virginia for the opening rounds of the tournament two weekends ago, Holmes-Winn had the sense that something wonderful was going to happen.

“I will remember how we went into turbo tournament mode,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We won the league and that was great. We dominated the play-in game [a 6-0 win at Lafayette] and you could feel the energy going into the tournament. Getting on the bus to Charlottesville, I was so excited. I knew we were going on a special journey and I could feel the belief and talent.”

Reinprecht, for her part, won’t soon forget the road she travelled to the national title.

“I am a very, very lucky girl to end my career like this,” said Reinprecht, who was named the 2012 Longstreth/NFHCA Division I Mid-Atlantic Region Player of the Year and totaled 156 points and 50 assists in her four seasons, good for fourth and second in program history, respectively, in those categories.

“It has been an incredible year and an incredible journey. It is fantastic to share it with this group of girls and coaches, they are such high quality people.”

OUT OF REACH: Princeton University defensive lineman Caraun Reid tries to corral Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams last Saturday. Reid and the Tigers faltered down the stretch, squandering an early 14-0 lead in falling 35-21 to the Big Green. The loss combined with Penn’s 35-28 win over Cornell knocked Princeton out of contention for a share of the Ivy League title. Still, the Tigers finished at 5-5 overall and 4-3 Ivy, a marked improvement for a program that had suffered through successive 1-9 campaigns. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

At about 2 last Saturday afternoon, things were falling into place for the Princeton University football team.

The Tigers had jumped out to a 14-0 lead over visiting Dartmouth and Penn was trailing Cornell 13-7.

A Princeton victory combined with a Penn defeat would secure a share of the Ivy League title for the Tigers and the final chapter in their heartening worst-to-first campaign.

But by 3:30, things had fallen apart as Dartmouth had jumped out to a 35-14 lead and Penn had pulled out a dramatic 35-28 win to clinch outright the Ivy crown.

The afternoon ended with Princeton dropping a 35-21 decision to Dartmouth as a crowd of 8,327 left a Princeton Stadium covered in shadows with night approaching.

While Princeton head coach Bob Surace was disappointed with how things turned out, he was able to see the silver lining in a season that saw Princeton end up 5-5 overall and 4-3 in Ivy play, a marked improvement after two successive 1-9 campaigns.

“I told the guys in the locker room how proud I am of them and what they accomplished and getting us to play a meaningful game at the end of the year,” said Surace.

“We had distractions and  things we had to overcome from what happened in January with Chuck [Dibilio] to Khamal [Brown] to all the different things that go on this week. They just remained focused and practiced hard. We just ran out of gas. You lose your right-handed quarterback [Connor Michelson] in the game before and he is not able to throw. Your lefty [Quinn Epperly] gets hurt the third play of the game and we just couldn’t overcome some of the things.”

With Princeton’s lead down to 14-7 at halftime, Surace sensed trouble on the horizon.

“We needed to have a bigger lead going into halftime,” said Surace. “We have had our foot on the pedal all year and we just couldn’t continue to get anything momentum-wise and give credit to them and their quarterback [Dalyn Williams]. I don’t know how many times that we had him in our grasp and had a shot at him. He found a way out of it and made plays and executed so it was a really good job by him.”

The game got away from Princeton in a four minute stretch of the third quarter which saw Dartmouth reel off 21 unanswered points.

Princeton senior co-captain and star linebacker Andrew Starks believed that the Tigers could weather the storm.

“Obviously when things happen like that, that’s us making mistakes,” said Starks, who had a team-high 16 tackles on the day.

“Not taking anything away from Dartmouth, they played a tremendous game and made a lot of great plays. When you are playing a team that has some athletes like they do, you can’t make mistakes like that. With that being said, I wouldn’t say we were unraveling. We made mistakes but I think at that point we still thought we were going to win the game. The offense would get going and the defense would stiffen up. We would make some plays and eventually turn things around. Unfortunately it just didn’t happen that way today.”

In the view of senior co-captain and defensive line standout Mike Catapano, the way Princeton turned things around this fall was reflected by its fighting spirit to the end on Saturday.

“We made some dramatic improvements and I am really proud of the guys,” said Catapano.

“We had some setbacks and some injuries with Khamal and things of that nature. This team never quit. Everybody thought we were going to be last in the league and this team really rallied together as a family and as a brotherhood. We fought every play of every game and that is what I am most proud of. We are going out that way too.”

In the early going on Saturday, it was Princeton that was making the big plays. After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers got on the board first as they scored on a four-yard touchdown run by Epperly to take a 7-0 lead.

Minutes later, Princeton doubled its lead on a big play by special teams as John Hill scooped up a punt blocked by Seth DeValve and raced 23 yards for a touchdown as the Tigers went up 14-0.

Williams, though, struck for the first of his three touchdown passes of the afternoon, hitting Justin Foley for a seven-yard scoring strike to make it a 14-7 game.

Princeton responded by marching 73 yards to the Dartmouth two-yard-line. The drive stalled and the Tigers attempted a field goal but the snap sailed high and Princeton came up with nothing as its lead remained at 14-7 at halftime.

The third quarter quickly turned into a nightmare for the Tigers. The Big Green took the opening kickoff and tied the game at 14-14 on a 54-yard option pass from receiver Ryan McManus to Bo Patterson.

Princeton’s first possession of the half ended with a lost fumble and Dartmouth quickly capitalized. Williams hit McManus for a 37-yard pass and then found Mitch Aprahamian in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass as Dartmouth forged ahead 21-14.

The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff and fumbled the ball away. Once again, the Big Green cashed in as Williams scored on a two-yard touchdown run, extending the Dartmouth lead to 28-14. All told, the Big Green scored 21 points in a span of 4:03 as it broke the contest open.

Dartmouth added some insurance early in the fourth quarter as Williams hit Michael Reilly with a 37-yard scoring pass to go up 35-14. The freshman quarterback ended the day hitting on 20-of-35 passes for 284 yards.

Princeton did score the final points of the afternoon as freshman quarterback Kedric Bostic, seeing action with Michelson and Epperly ailing, scampered for a nine-yard touchdown run to make the final margin 35-21.

While losing the finale was disappointing, Catapano was proud of the excitement the Tigers generated around campus this fall as they made their unlikely bid for a league title.

“That was the goal of the seniors, that was the goal of our whole team — to bring pride back to this university and this football program” asserted Catapano.

“These guys work so hard 365. It is not just a fall sport, we go so hard in the summer time, so hard in the spring. A lot of people don’t see that but I think they got a much greater appreciation for what we did this year and trying to lay a foundation for something even better to come. That is what I am most proud of; that is what the seniors are most proud of.”

As a result, the Tiger seniors were determined to put on a brave face later that evening as they celebrated the bonfire they earned with wins over Harvard and Yale.

“To mope through an event that is so difficult to acquire would just be wrong and wouldn’t be the way to finish out the four years the senior class has had,” said Starks, who gave an impassioned speech at the
bonfire celebration on Cannon Green.

“Obviously this loss hurts right now. You never want to lose, especially when it is your last one. I think you have to have a quick bounce back period and go out there and have a good time with guys one last time.”

Surace, for his part, had a good time working with his Class of 2013.

“When they were building some of the buildings over there, I used to take pictures of the guys with hard hats and lunch pails going to work,” said Surace.

“I thought it was really neat; here you are at Princeton and when we go to work out at 6:30 in the morning, you have got these guys that are going to work with their hard hats and lunch pails. That’s what the group was. Whether we made mistakes, we played hard. Even today, I thought we played extremely hard.”

That tenacity helped spark this fall’s turnaround and should pay dividends as the Princeton program looks to keep progressing.

“We move forward; the reality is when I dismiss the seniors from our 3:15 meeting and it is just underclassmen, we have got to get going again,” said Surace.

“The reason we got to this point is guys like Cat, Andrew, and the other seniors just took the approach the correct way. I am confident we have built something where guys will continue to do that.”

WILL POWER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett drives to the basket last Friday against visiting Rutgers. Junior forward Barrett scored a team-high 13 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 58-52 to the Scarlet Knights. The Tigers, now 1-2, play at No. 6 Syracuse on November 21 and at Lafayette on November 24. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

For the Princeton University men’s basketball team, its non-conference schedule is designed to be a minefield, providing an array of challenges to sharpen the squad for Ivy League play.

Last week, the Tigers saw things blow up on them twice at Jadwin Gym as they worked out some early-season kinks.

On November 13, Princeton blew an 18-point lead on the way to a 67-66 loss to Northeastern. Three days later against Rutgers, the Tigers jumped out to an early 12-3 advantage only to end up falling 58-52 to their local rivals.

“Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel for us,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, invoking the Batman catchphrase in expressing his disappointment after the Rutgers game.

“Once again, I feel like Rutgers deserves a lot of credit and we have to be able to execute a little better on the offensive end. I thought our defense was improved from the last time we went out. We made some mistakes that I think are correctable.”

Trailing Rutgers 33-27 as the second half started, Princeton displayed some better intensity as it went on a 9-4 run to narrow the gap to 37-36. The Tigers got it to 43-40 and 50-46 but could never get over the hump against the Scarlet Knights.

“We just couldn’t buy a hoop; we got it to 50-46 with four minutes left and we missed a couple of easy shots that would have really helped,” said Henderson whose team shot 7-of-22 from the field in the second half as it fell to 1-2.

“Our backcourt is struggling a little bit. T.J. [Bray] was a 40 percent shooter from 3 last year and I have confidence that we’ll turn this thing around.”

Henderson was dismayed by how his team struggled on the boards, getting outrebounded 42-24 by an aggressive Rutgers squad.

“It is concerning, especially since I think that is what we want to hang our hat on this year,” said Henderson.

“They had six offensive in the first half; it was just like patty cake up against the glass. I thought that was a major point and I thought transition hoops in the first half made a difference.”

Tiger senior star Ian Hummer acknowledged that the Tigers were outfought on the glass.

“It was an overall team effort by Rutgers, they really destroyed us, they really pushed us around,” said Hummer, who ended the evening with 10 points and four rebounds.

“I think we have to push back. We can definitely hit the boards as well, if not better, than they can. It just didn’t happen today and we just have to learn from it. We have got to go hard in practice and we’ll board up next time.”

Like Henderson, Hummer was disappointed by Princeton’s failure to execute when it was on the verge of regaining the lead.

“Rutgers is a very good team, but to be perfectly honest we didn’t play very well when we were only two or three points down,” said Hummer, who had played a major role in helping Princeton win the last two games in the series.

“To know that was the case and not being able to cross that threshold was kind of frustrating. Every time we cut it to two or three, they ended up getting a board and putting it back. It definitely takes the wind out of your sails. It just builds character. We are going to be in tough games throughout the season. I think we can really learn from this and we can play a lot better.”

Henderson, for his part, knows the Tigers will have to be tougher as they play at No. 6 Syracuse on November 21 and at Lafayette on November 24.

“We have hit some droughts but I think that we need to have the ability to adjust in those different changing defensive segments,” said Henderson.

“That’s why we like playing these games. They really help us and it shows us what we need to work on.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Kevin Halliday controls the ball last Thursday as third-seeded PHS battled No. 7 Middletown South in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Junior forward Halliday scored the game-winning goal in overtime as PHS prevailed 2-1. Last Monday, Halliday scored two goals as PHS upended top-seeded Allentown 4-3 in the sectional title game. The Little Tigers, now 17-3, earned a spot in the state Group III semifinals on November 27 at Toms River North against the winner of Kingsway-Moorestown South Jersey sectional final. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a case of déjà vu for Kevin Halliday and the Princeton High boys’ soccer team as they headed into overtime tied 1-1 with Middletown South last Thursday in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals.

Three days earlier, third-seeded PHS had gone into overtime against No. 6 Wall in the sectional quarterfinals and prevailed on a goal by Chase Ealy.

In the view of junior forward Halliday, PHS was able to draw on that experience as they headed into extra time against seventh-seeded Middletown South.

“I think with us being in the same position as the last game, we knew we had to keep our heads straight,” said Halliday.

“Even when things got chippy, we knew we had to finish our chances when they came.”

Midway through the second overtime, Halliday did just that, banging home the winning goal to trigger a raucous celebration and book a spot in the sectional finals for a second straight year.

“I went up for a header and tried to shoot it and it came back to me,” recalled Halliday. “It ended up on my foot and I just had to finish the chance.”

Having nearly scored in the first overtime, Halliday felt he was due for a goal.

“I thought it was coming; I had that shot and he made the save,” said Halliday.

“We came off for halftime and my friend Andrew Braverman gave me his lucky band. I put it back on and we scored it.”

On Monday, Halliday kept scoring, tallying two goals as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in a 4-3 thriller in the sectional final to improve to 17-3 and earn a spot in the state Group III semifinals on November 27 at Toms River North against the winner of Kingsway-Moorestown South Jersey sectional final.

In Halliday’s view, who now has a team-high 22 goals, his scoring prowess has been the result of several factors.

“I think just being in the right place at the right time,” said Halliday. “To be honest, I wouldn’t say that any of my goals have been beating five guys and ripping it up. It is just knowing where the pass is going, knowing where the ball is going to end, and finishing it. I think it is a matter of that little bit of luck and a little bit of experience and hard work.”

Halliday enjoys working with his brother, Zach, a star senior midfielder for the Little Tigers.

“I have always loved playing with my brother; I have done it for a while,” said Halliday. “I think we work well together.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe loves seeing how his junior striker has developed into a deadly finisher.

“Kevin has been a special player since his early days when we had him as a freshman,” said Sutcliffe.

“First of all, he has got great technique. His tactical awareness complements that. He is a terrific athlete and he is a great competitor. He just gets in and combines with Zach, Aidan [Passannante], Colin [Lamb] and Jeremy [Goldsmith]. He has this great ability to read the game. I think he separates himself a little bit because of his desire and his athleticism.”

Having won the state Group III title in 2009 and the sectional crown last fall, PHS has once again separated itself from the competition in the postseason.

“It has been a priority to be at our best when the pressure is the greatest and to have thick skins,” said Sutcliffe.

“I think this is our third overtime game of the season, two in this week. Our mentality has led us to be very strong and very focused in these tight spots. All credit to my guys.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, this year’s squad has displayed a special focus this fall. “It has been a challenging season,” said Sutcliffe.

“We had some key injuries to key players early on in the first half and then we found our form. But then we sort of lost it a little bit. The storm, for everyone, was a challenge. We were without a game for two weeks and I am proud of the team for having the maturity and the strength to get through that and get better in that two weeks because we got better even though we didn’t play a game. We were out here everyday training.”

Halliday, for his part, believes that PHS has been stronger in the wake of a 4-0 defeat to Pennington in the county tournament.

“We came back from a hard loss to Pennington in the MCTs so we had a big break, especially with Sandy so we just kept on working on it, working on it, and it paid off for us,” said Halliday.

“Before Pennington, we had been on a run and it kind of knocked us off. The biggest thing that we took from that is that when we go down a goal we have to stay composed. That’s what we did the last two games.”

STILL KICKING: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Meghan ­Brennan kicks the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Brennan scored PHS’s first goal in a 2-0 win over Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals. The victory improved PHS to 15-2-1 as the Little Tigers earned their first trip to the sectional championship game since 2004. PHS is slated to face No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor to advance to the state Group III semifinals on November 27.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton High girls’ soccer team had some agonizing near misses against Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals as the team were knotted in a scoreless tie heading into the waning moments of regulation.

With second-seeded PHS dominating possession, Meghan Brennan was confident the Little Tigers could break the ice against the No. 3 Bulldogs, who had posted a 1-0 win in the regular season meeting between the teams.

“Every time we got a free kick, I was hoping it was here,” said senior forward Brennan.

Then with seven minutes left, freshmen defender Haley Bodden lofted a free kick towards the box and Brennan rose above the HoVal defense to head it into the back of the net.

In reflecting on her tally, Brennan credited Bodden’s service. “We all had our different runs and everybody was working really hard and Haley played the perfect ball,” recalled Brennan. “She couldn’t have placed it more perfectly.”

Minutes later, Kate Kerr fired a shot over the HoVal goalie to put the finishing touches on a 2-0 win over the Bulldogs.

The victory improved PHS to 15-2-1 as the Little Tigers earned their first trip to the sectional championship game since 2004. PHS is slated to face No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor to advance to the state Group III semifinals on November 27.

For Brennan, seeing PHS advance to the sectional title game has come as a pleasant surprise.

“At the beginning of the season, it was really hard to know what to expect,” said Brennan.

“We had 11 new players so you never really know how that’s going to go. From day one, we decided that we were going to take it day by day and work as hard as we could in practice and not set any lofty goals. I think we have done a great job sticking together, Staying behind each other and playing as a team and just putting all we have into it.”

In Brennan’s view, PHS gathered steam as the season progressed. “I think it was more of a gradual process; there wasn’t one particular turning point,” said Brennan.

“We had two losses early in the season so I think that kind of helped us get momentum. We got inspiration from those losses to come back and rebound and work hard.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand liked the work he was getting from his team as it knocked on the door against HoVal late in the second half.

“I thought for the last 20-25 minutes we had momentum,” said Hand. “We were creating really well; almost scored on several occasions. It always seems to be the case, the harder you play the more your technique and tactics really show themselves. The kids seemed to be really aware and connected in the last 20 minutes of the game.”

Hand was not surprised that the combination of Bodden and Brennan connected on the game winner. “Haley has been on the money all year long with restarts,” said Hand. “Meghan is just a big player who really stepped up.”

Kerr’s insurance goal was a prime example of how the PHS players have stepped up in big moments this fall.

“It was beautiful; it is the time you want somebody to be taking the initiative on her own and finding a way to finish,” said Hand. “I thought it was an excellent play from the first touch to the finish.”

The team’s excellent play in the second half stood as a microcosm of PHS’s title run.

“It is nice to know what we are capable of which is what we did in the second half,” said Hand. “It came out; the kids certainly worked hard enough to earn that.”

Brennan, for her part, is thrilled to see PHS come on so strong in her senior season.

“It is so amazing; everyone wants their senior year to be successful,” said Brennan.

“I am so glad we have made it this far. It is farther than I have ever made it. I love this team so much. It makes it so much more special to be with all of them during this.”

IN GOOD HANDS: Princeton High girls’ soccer goalie Lauren Ullmann takes a break during action earlier this fall. Senior star Ullmann posted 14 saves in a 3-1 win over Somerville in the Group III Central Jersey quarterfinals last week and then scored a shutout as PHS blanked Hopewell Valley 2-0 in the sectional semis last Friday. The second-seeded Little Tigers were slated to host No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor advancing to the state Group III semifinals on November 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Senior goalie Lauren Ullmann knows what it is like to hold the fort for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team.

“We went 100 minutes against Pennington and nothing went in,” said Ullmann, referring to PHS’s loss to Pennington on penalty kicks in the Mercer County Tournament semis after the teams played to a scoreless tie through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.

“We have done it against other teams in the CVC with strong attacks.” Last week, Ullmann and the second-seeded Little Tigers were under attack as they hosted seventh-seeded Somerville in the Group III Central Jersey quarterfinals. The upstart Pioneers peppered PHS in the early going, building a 7-1 edge in shots and a 1-0 lead.

The cool-headed and battle-tested Ullmann wasn’t fazed. “I just think it was a matter of when we would find our rhythm and figure the game enough to play the way we play the best,” said Ullmann, who made some big saves during that early stretch of the contest.

“The only concern I would have had is that I don’t want my season to end today. I had complete faith in us that we would be able to come back. It wasn’t a problem, just come back and take it to them. I had confidence that as long we could keep getting the job done in the back, we could get the job done as a whole.”

PHS broke through on a goal by freshman Taylor Lis with 10:58 remaining in the first half.

“I think we realized that the game was in our control; we had the power to make it happen,” said Ullmann.

“We don’t want the season to end today. It is us, we can make it happen and keep the season going.”

The Little Tigers went on to win 3-1 with Ullmann making 14 saves in the win.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Ullmann. “There was no reason that we should not have been able to get those goals pretty quickly. I thought we stayed sharp and we were focused the whole game.”

PHS assistant coach Val Rodriguez liked the focus that Ullmann displayed in goal as she helped the Little Tigers survive Somerville’s early barrage.

“She made some great saves,” said Rodriguez. “Lauren is a dependable keeper and a great leader on the field. We can always count on her.”

Three days later, Ullmann had another great performance as she helped PHS blank third-seeded Hopewell Valley 2-0 in the sectional semifinals and improve to 15-3.

For Ullmann, PHS’s postseason run is all the more special since the Little Tigers came out of nowhere.

“I think we love each other and we love being together,” said Ullmann, who was looking to keep up her hot play as PHS hosted No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional finals.

“I think this season has been totally unexpected with 10 or 11 newcomers and six of them are freshmen. I just think no one really expected that much from us. I think we have worked hard to prove ourselves, day in and day out. We don’t stop when we push ourselves at practice.

Ullmann is hoping the Little Tigers can keep pushing a little longer. “We want to be there again and again,” added Ullmann.

“This season is extending to who knows when with Hurricane Sandy and everything. We want to be here, we want to play together. That’s what allows us to get it done.”

And with Ullmann consistently getting it done in the net, PHS has produced one of the best seasons in program history.

GROUP EFFORT: The Princeton High boys’ cross country team moves to the front of the pack in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, PHS took fifth in the state Group III championship meet at Holmdel Park. Senior Luke Bozich led the way for the Little Tigers, placing 14th in the individual standings as he covered the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:43. Junior Kevin Vahdat was next for PHS, taking 38th with classmate Sage Healy finishing 46th, sophomore Jacob Rist placing 51st, and junior Conor Donahue coming in 73rd. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

John Woodside reveled in the weather conditions that met his Princeton High boys’ cross country runners last Saturday as they competed in the state Group III championship meet at Holmdel Park.

“It was a perfect cross country day,” said Woodside, who knows a lot about the weather from his work as meteorologist at Newark Airport.

“If it is in the 40s, it is chilly and you need to loosen up. When it is in the 60s, some runners think that is too warm. It was not too hot, not too cold.”

Woodside’s runners proceeded to produce a sizzling performance, taking fifth in the team standings. Senior Luke Bozich led the way for the Little Tigers, placing 14th in the individual standings as he covered the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:43. Junior Kevin Vahdat was next for PHS, taking 38th with classmate Sage Healy finishing 46th, sophomore Jacob Rist placing 51st, and junior Conor Donahue coming in 73rd.

“Taking the whole performance together, it is probably the best performance of any team I have ever coached,” said Woodside, who is in his 12th year guiding the PHS program.

“It was really fun to watch them compete well and run hard. I was happy that they were able to do so well on a big day. It was a much, much faster and much, much deeper meet than the group meet last year.”

In Woodside’s view, his runners displayed some tactical acumen to go along with their competitive spirit.

“I thought they were a little further back early on than they should be but they really finished strong,” said Woodside.

“Last year the guys ran too hard in the first half-mile and that hurt them later in the race. They didn’t want to do that this year. When I saw them at the 2-mile mark, I was thinking we might not be doing anything today. But between 2 and the 2½ mile mark, they ran very well.”

Senior star Bozich set the pace for the Little Tigers. “Luke ran a gutsy race,” said Woodside. “The top guys didn’t take it out too hard and he was in the front pack for the first half of the race. He set the tone for our guys.”

PHS’s next guys, Vahdat and Healy, flip-flopped during the race. “Kevin Vahdat was our No. 2 guy, he started behind Sage,” said Woodside of Vahdat, who clocked a time of 17:12 with Healy just behind in 17:17.

“He ended up running 10 seconds faster than he did at the Shore Coaches meet. Sage had some injury troubles and ran an 18:48 at Shore Coaches; he was in the JV race at that meet. Once he gets in the rhythm of training he does well. We know he is a talented runner.”

Sophomore Rist is proving himself to be a talented performer for the Little Tigers.

“He didn’t run on varsity as a freshman; he has improved dramatically in a year,” asserted Woodside.

“For a sophomore, he ran a savvy race. He started further back on purpose in the first mile. It is tough, you want to be competitive but the first mile can eat you up. It rises 130 feet. It doesn’t hurt that he has talent. He works hard and he is very consistent.”

The PHS squad has developed a chemistry that has helped the runners enjoy the hard work they have put in this fall.

“They compete with each other but without animosity,” said Woodside. “They root for each other and they all run hard. They are all close and they all have fun.”

Woodside certainly had fun watching his runners excel last Saturday. “I told them if they ran the best they could and ran their hearts out, I don’t need to look at the standings,” said Woodside.

“We were almost 8 seconds faster per guy than the fastest team I have ever had, which was the 2009 team at the group meet. I would say that our first four guys, if they weren’t off the chart, they were at the edge of the chart. I couldn’t ask for any more.”

The Little Tigers will get one more chance to show their speed as they will be competing in the Nike Northeast Regional meet on November 24 in Wappingers Fall, N.Y.

“It is a reward for a great season and will give the returning guys some experience,” said Woodside. “It will be great to take the guys on a trip, go out to dinner, and stay overnight.”

Joe Gargione didn’t like the mood in the air as his Princeton High football team travelled to their NJSIAA consolation game at New Brunswick last Friday.

“On the bus ride to the game, the kids seemed giddy,” said PHS head coach Gargione.

“As soon as they got on the bus, they were talkative. It has been a long and tough season so I let it go. They settled down once we got there for the game.”

The Little Tigers settled into a back-and-forth contest with the Zebras as they looked to snap an eight-game losing streak.

“It was a pretty tight game; early on, both teams had turnovers,” recalled Gargione.

“We sacked their quarterback and got a fumble. Then Zack [DiGregorio] and Bobby [Wright] had a bad exchange and they got a fumble. They went ahead 6-0 and then we tied it at 6-6. They went ahead 8-6, getting a safety when they blocked a punt out of the end zone.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to end the season on a high note as they outscored New Brunswick 16-6 in the second half to pull out a 22-14 win.

“We buckled down in the second half and got two touchdowns,” said Gargione.

“Javon Pannell had a great game, he rushed for 174 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns. We were rushing the ball early and they were doing a good job stopping it. We started opening things up in the second half. The offensive line was making some nice holes. The intensity picked up when we saw we could win.”

Getting the win in the finale was special for the PHS senior class which includes such stalwarts as Will Xu, Jamyl Williams, Alden Reyes, Grant Schaefer, Ben Smallzman, Carl Helstrom, Sam Nelson, Matt Vieten, William Harrison, Jack Persico, Christian Giles, and David Klinges in addition to Pannell, DiGregiorio, and Wright.

“It was great; we won the first game and lost the next eight so it is great to end with a win,” said Gargione.

“It is nice for our 15 seniors, it is something they will always remember. They have done a lot for the program. We are losing eight senior starters on defense and most of the offense. We are losing a lot. They all stepped up Friday night and that was great to see.”

Gargione is looking for his returning players to step up in the future. “I want the younger kids to take the fact that we can hang with these teams,” asserted Gargione. “They just need to believe in themselves and execute what we coach. We need to stay competitive in more games.”

In order to be more competitive, PHS will need to work hard on several levels.

“We need to do a better job of finding more kids to play,” said Gargione. “I also want our players to play another sport, whether it be basketball or wrestling in the winter or track or baseball in the spring. It makes you more competitive. We will start formal weightlifting in January. It was great to win that last game and go into the offseason with a taste of victory.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Hun School field hockey player Francesca Bello goes after the ball in action this fall. Junior forward Bello scored some key goals this season in helping the Raiders finish with a 6-8 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost 3-1 to Lawrenceville in regular season play, the Hun School field hockey team was the hungrier squad when the schools met for a rematch in the state Prep A semis.

“I think they were looking past us,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “I think they assumed it was going to be an easy game. Our seniors knew that it could be their last game.”

Hun made things hard on the Big Red from the start of the contest, battling Lawrenceville tooth-and-nail all over the field with the teams tied 1-1 at halftime.

“From the goalie to the forward line, the girls played their hearts out,” said Quirk, who got a goal from Taylor Havard in the contest.

“[Reina] Kern had a nice game in goal; everyone put it together. We monopolized possession, we transitioned all the way to the forward line.”

Although Hun ended up falling 2-1, Quirk saw the defeat as a step forward for the program.

“I told them afterward if we had played like that every game, we would have won some of the games that we lost,” said Quirk, whose team ended the season with a 6-8 record.

“I was very proud of the team. I think it was a moral victory for them to see that they could stay with the best.”

In reflecting on the season, Quirk acknowledged that her team should have produced more victories.

“I think there were some games that were disappointing, where we didn’t show up and we were a better team than we showed,” said Quirk.

“The games against PDS [a 1-0 victory], Peddie [a 2-1 loss], and Lawrenceville showed that we could pull it together and play as a team.”

Quirk credited her senior class with holding things together for the team.

“All six of them were starters and they will be missed,” said Quirk, whose senior group included Carey Million, Taylor Havard, Olivia Albanese, Sam Heyrich, Lauren Apuzzi, and Maddie Schade.

“They have been a strong force, most of them were with the program for four years. They all contributed in their way and had a positive influence.”

Looking ahead to next year, the Raiders should be a force defensively with the return of junior Alex Kane and sophomore goalie Kern.

“Alex Kane directs the defense and Kern is a very good goalie,” said Quirk, noting that Kern recorded 15 saves in the season-ending loss to Lawrenceville.

Hun has a good foundation for the 2013 season elsewhere on the field. “We have some good players returning; girls like Bri Barrett, Julia Kampanjie, and Liz Mydlowski played well,” said Quirk.

“Julia Blake is a strong midfielder and Alex Natale came on. Francesca Bello had some big goals. Courtney Faulkner did well. Vicky Leach came into her own, she had some key goals and was one of our most improved players. Bri Cifelli broke her arm in the Steinert game, but will be back next year on the forward line.”

In Quirk’s view, the program is poised to move forward. “A key for us is that we have to come back in shape next year,” asserted Quirk.

“We need to remember how we played against teams like PDS, Peddie, and Lawrenceville. We can play with the best.”

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Stuart Country Day field hockey coach Missy Bruvik makes a point during a game this fall. Bruvik enjoyed her return to the helm of the program which she led to several county and prep titles during her first tenure in guiding the Tartans for 21 years through the 2006 season. A young Stuart squad showed improvement this fall as it went 3-14-1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Missy Bruvik knew that she faced a challenge as she returned for her second act as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day field hockey team.

“It was a season where we had only four returning varsity players,” said Bruvik, who led the program to several county and prep titles during her first tenure in guiding the Tartans for 21 years through the 2006 season.

“We wanted to see the growth of the new varsity players and see how they could handle things.”

Although Stuart went just 3-14-1 this fall, Bruvik saw marked progress as the season unfolded.

“We had a tough schedule; despite the record I was proud of how the kids played,” said Bruvik.

“They showed tenacity. Some games it might be there for 30 minutes but it was always there.”

In the team’s season finale, the Tartans showed tenacity from the opening minute to the final whistle as they fell 1-0 at Morristown-Beard in the opening round of the state Prep B playoffs.

“I thought we played great,” asserted Bruvik. “We played a really strong 60-minute game. It was one of our best games of the season. We had an all-out effort.”

Bruvik got some strong leadership from senior stars Olivia Neubert and Nikki Starke.

“I think they really embraced what the season was about; they were great about working with the young kids and doing some coaching,” said Bruvik.

“They let them know what it is all about in terms of rivalries and how important the games were. They had positive quotes everyday. You hope to see intangibles like that from your senior leaders.”

Juniors Amy Hallowell, Megan Shannon, and goalie Margaret LaNasa emerged as key performers. “I was thrilled to have Amy back; we had so few upperclassmen with experience and she played so hard.

“Megan Shannon was also a big help. They were unsung leaders; they did their jobs well. Margaret grew so much over the season; it was a testament to her work ethic and Gia’s [assistant coach and former star goalie Gia Fruscione] work with her. She took a lot of shots; we played a lot of quality foes this year. I think she is going to be really good next year.”

Stuart’s corps of freshmen has the potential be a really good group for the program. “They played so tough; they are some good young athletes who are new to the game,” said Bruvik, whose freshmen included Catherine Donahue, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser, Sam Servis, Kathleen Walsh, Emma Froehlich, and Elena Bernewitz.

“They are learning the game and how to play with each other. It takes time to learn to play together and get used to where people are going to be on the field. It was all about that sense of improvement, seeing where we were in the beginning of the season and how far we have come. They will have that much more knowledge as a team when we get out there next year.”

Bruvik, for her part, had a great year in making her return to head coaching. “I felt it was really rewarding, I enjoyed everything about it,” said Bruvik.

“I was really lucky to get a group like this that was eager to learn and work hard. I am excited about next year.”

November 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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