October 10, 2012

GETTING THE CALL: Princeton University men’s squash coach Bob Callahan, far right, celebrates with his squad last February after it beat Trinity to win the Collegiate Squash Association (CSA) national championship and snap the Bantams’ 13-year title streak. Later that month, Callahan learned that he had a malignant tumor in his head and subsequently had successful brain surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. This Wednesday, Callahan will cap his year of triumph and suffering as he is inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame in Philadelphia.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

On February 19, Bob Callahan’s arms were weary from hugging people after he guided his Princeton University men’s squash team to a win for the ages as it rallied to beat Trinity and snap the Bantams’ 13-year stranglehold on the Collegiate Squash Association (CSA) national title.

Characteristically, longtime Princeton head coach Callahan deflected the credit in assessing the third CSA national title of his 31-year tenure.

“What it reminded me is that there is a key ingredient in all these championship matches, which is luck,” said Callahan.

“We were down 4-2 and we won 5-4. Three years ago [in a 5-4 loss to Trinity in the 2009 national title match], we had some matches we should have won that we didn’t win. This year, we had some matches that we won that we should not have won.”

Two days later, Callahan experienced a strange feeling in his arms that triggered a much tougher battle than toppling the Trinity dynasty.

“We won on Sunday and that Tuesday, I was sitting here in Jadwin and one of the kids, as always, walked in the door, and as he did my two arms, from elbow down, had a kind of tingling like they had fallen asleep. It happened twice in about 30 seconds that day. I thought that’s weird and then it happened three times on Wednesday.”

Callahan experienced more tingling in his arms a few days later and went to the University Medical Center of Princeton where an MRI was performed on his head, revealing a black mass that was subsequently diagnosed as a malignant brain tumor. In early March, Callahan, 57, had brain surgery performed at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“The surgery was successful; I started six weeks of radiation and chemo and then had a month off,” said Callahan.

“Then you start going in monthly for MRIs and they check you out. It has been fine; I am just more tired than I normally would be. That is the effects of radiation and chemo. Now I take two chemo pills for five days and I take 23 days off and I start again. I was lucky, not only that they recognized what is was right away but the placement of the tumor was over here on the right front of my head. For all right handers, the important stuff happens on the left side of your brain.”

In recognition of Callahan’s importance and standing in the squash world, he will be inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame this Wednesday in Philadelphia.

For Callahan, the honor adds a special high to his roller-coaster 2012. “I felt unworthy of consideration; I am not a big awards person to begin with so it was a surprise,” said Callahan, a 1977 Princeton graduate who was a two-time squash All-American during his college days.

“It is an honor to be associated with some folks who have tried to help squash; that is what my life has been about.”

When Callahan arrived at Princeton in 1973 from Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, squash wasn’t a huge part of his life.

“I was a tennis recruit at Princeton, not a squash recruit,” recalled Callahan, who was a nationally junior squash player during his high school career.

“I came here all fired up to be No.1 in tennis and win Wimbledon and everything else. I wasn’t going to play squash my freshman year. The captain of the squash team my freshman year happened to go to Episcopal and he said ‘come on Bob, just try squash for two weeks.’”

Callahan agreed and never looked back, rising up the ladder to No. 6 as a freshman and No. 3 as a sophomore before playing at No. 1 his last two seasons. He played on three national championship teams at Princeton and gained as much off the court from his involvement with the program.

“It was fun to come to practice; it was fun to travel,” said Callahan, who continued to play tennis at Princeton but didn’t experience the success that he enjoyed at squash.

“You can  remember the bus trips, shooting the breeze. It was great to have a built-in group of guys who will do anything for you and you for them. You wind up being closest friends. They are the people you eat dinner with, the people you socialize with. It is a big part of the experience.”

After graduating from Princeton, Callahan left the world of squash to sell computers for IBM. But serving on a search committee to find someone to serve as Princeton squash head coach and tennis assistant led Callahan back to his alma mater.

“I was dutifully doing my job on the search committee when somewhere in the process someone said you should consider this yourself which I had not thought of,” recalled Callahan, who had done some summer coaching during high and college.

“I had no interest in coaching outside of Princeton; the draw was to go back to the alma mater and do the sport that meant so much to you as a student. IBM nicely agreed to give me a leave for three years to coach so I still had an affiliation with them.”

It didn’t take long for Callahan to realize that he had found his calling. “I loved the kids that were here,” said Callahan, who guided the Tigers to a national title in his debut season.

“After three years were up, IBM came calling; I had talked to them and had a nice offer. I remember one night a friend of mine from the area said when you worked for IBM on Sunday evenings, did you ever have an upset stomach or headaches thinking about the week ahead. I said every Sunday, I was uptight about stuff as a salesman. At Princeton, I couldn’t wait until Monday morning arrived to go to the office and get going. So what I am thinking, I am not going back to IBM. I am staying here so that was it.”

Staying put at Princeton gave Callahan the chance to coach his five sons, Greg, Scott, Tim, Matt, and Peter, who each played squash for the Tigers.

“It was really special; it was great fun,” said Callahan. “It was 10 years worth of having my kids around; it was wonderful for me.”

Another wonderful experience for Callahan came when he got to work with the legendary Yasser El Halaby, a native of Cairo, Egypt who won four national individual titles from 2003-06 during his Princeton career.

“He was one of world’s best young players and he was extraordinary,” recalled Callahan.

“He was very talented and exceedingly gracious towards the rest of the team and college squash. He was very popular on campus; he really thrived at Princeton and we thrived as a result.”

Princeton senior star Todd Harrity, a national champion himself in 2011, appreciates how Callahan helps his players thrive on and off the court.

“He really watches over and takes care of all of us,” said Harrity. “College is an adjustment and is hard at times for everyone and Bob is a great mentor. He is a Princeton grad himself so he understands the school and the curriculum.”

Harrity and his teammates were stunned when they learned last March of Callahan’s battle with cancer.

“We had a conference call and he told us everything,” said Harrity. “We didn’t know how to react. It was confusing as to what the consequences were. There was a lot of stuff to think about and a lot of mixed emotions.”

There will be no mixed emotions for the Princeton players as they accompany Callahan to the Hall of Fame ceremony this week.

“I am happy for him and proud of him,” said Harrity. “It is going to be great; we are excited to be going there with him.”

For Harrity, though, it is Callahan’s character more than his on-court success that has impacted him the most.

“To him sportsmanship is a big deal; it is just as important as winning,” said Harrity.

“I respect and admire that about him; it is easy to get caught up in the emotions of a match. He gets up and tells the crowd to calm down and be respectful; to cheer the good points and don’t jeer the bad ones.”

Callahan has a better perspective on the good things in life in the wake of his battle with cancer.

“It makes crystal clear that the important things in life are very few and they are family-related,” said Callahan, who credits wife Kristen with providing him amazing support. “I’ll do anything to increase the number of days I have with my family.”

For now, Callahan is looking forward to spending time with his squash family as he gets ready to coach Princeton in its title defense.

“It is full speed ahead,” said Callahan, whose hair is closely cropped on the right side of his head but retains a constant twinkle in his eyes.

“Practice starts officially on October 15 and I told Gary Walters [Princeton Director of Athletics] I am in. Next spring, we’ll decide about the following year.”

While Callahan knows he is facing some tough times ahead, he is determined to stay all in.

“I want to be fair to everybody; my life is definitely not going to be as long as it was which is OK,” said Callahan.

“I am going to do my best to beat the thing but a very small percentage of people make it five years. Everyone is going to die at some point. It is not how old you are, it is what you do while you are here.”

This Wednesday, Callahan will be getting more congratulatory hugs as the good that he has done in the game of squash is recognized by receiving the sport’s highest honor.

LOOKING SHARP: Princeton University running back Akil Sharp carries the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Sharp rushed for a team-high 60 yards and two touchdowns as Princeton routed Lafayette 35-14 for its second straight win. Princeton, now 2-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 13 in a critical league contest.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As his Princeton University football team battled Lafayette to a standstill in the first half last Saturday evening, Bob Surace had a flashback to his days with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It reminded me of an AFC North game with the Steelers or the Ravens and some really good defense,” said Princeton head coach Surace, who served as an assistant on the Bengals staff for nine seasons before taking over the Tiger program  prior to the 2010 season.

“You might gain some yards but it is hard to score points. It was two teams playing hard and not turning it over.”

With the teams locked in a scoreless tie heading into the last minute of the first half, Princeton broke the ice as Akil Sharp scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left in the quarter.

Sharp’s scoring jaunt culminated a nine-play, 86-yard drive. Using some trickery on the extra point attempt, the Tigers increased their lead to 8-0 as the ball was snapped to Jason Ray and he ran in a two-point conversion.

“To score and get that two-point conversion, that was big,” said Surace, whose team took the 8-0 lead into intermission. “Having that 86-yard drive gave us momentum.”

Still, Surace knew that his team had to be sharper in the second half.

“We needed to finish drives better,” said Surace, recalling his halftime message. “We moved the ball but they got a couple of big third down stops. We were backed up in field position.”

In the third quarter, Surace may have had visions of the dominant Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s as Princeton produced one of its better quarters in recent memory.

Utilizing an opportunistic defense and a balanced offense, the Tigers outscored Lafayette 21-0 in the quarter on the way to a 35-14 rout before a crowd of 6,812 at Fisher Field.

The victory improved Princeton to 2-2, marking its first two-game win streak since topping Lehigh and Columbia on successive Saturdays early in the 2008 campaign. It was the Tigers’ first win over a team with a winning record since week seven of 2007 when Princeton defeated a 4-2 Cornell team 34-31.

The defense triggered the Tigers’ third quarter explosion as an interception by senior linebacker Andrew Starks set up Princeton’s first score. Five plays after Starks’ pick gave the Tigers the ball at the Lafayette 45-yard line, sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly ran 23 yards for a touchdown as Princeton jumped ahead 15-0.

On the ensuing Lafayette possession, the Tiger defense struck again as junior safety Philip Bhaya picked off a Zach Zweizig pass and ran 34 yards for a touchdown as Princeton increased its lead to 22-0.

“Our defense was swarming to the ball; we were so close to making turnovers,” said Surace, whose star defensive end Mike Catapano was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles in the win, including three for loss, and a career-high 2.5 sacks.  “That play by Andrew was a big momentum shift and then Phil makes a good read on his interception.”

The Tigers got another big play late in the third quarter as junior receiver Roman Wilson scampered 34 yards for a touchdown on a rushing play to give Princeton a 29-0 advantage with 12 seconds left in the quarter.

The balanced Princeton rushing attack made a huge difference for the Tigers as they pulled away from the Leopards. Five different players gained at least 30 yards as Princeton rushed for 262 yards on 54 attempts. Senior star Sharp led the way with 60 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Wilson had 55 yards and Will Powers chipped in 48 with quarterbacks Epperly and Conner Michelson gaining 45 and 30 yards, respectively.

“Once we got rolling last year, we knew that Chuck Dibilio could get the ball 25 times for 150 yards and we had two or three guys to get that last 100,” said Surace, noting that sophomore Dibilio was at the game Saturday as he continues to recover from a stroke that sidelined him this fall.

“Now we have so many guys who can get yards for us. Wilson had a big run. Powers had some good runs and Akil made some nice carries. Epperly had that big run and some other good ones.”

Surace was concerned to see Lafayette make some big plays in the fourth quarter as former Allentown High star Ross Scheuerman ran 65 yards for a touchdown early in the period and Marc Ross scored on a 29-yard pass play with 6:54 left in regulation.

“We can’t turn the on and off switch,” said Surace, whose team’s fourth quarter tally came on a one-yard plunge by Sharp.

“What we learned is that when the game is in hand, I want us to keep our foot on the gas pedal. You only get 600 minutes in a season and you need to take advantage of every moment. You can’t throw away seven or eight minutes. But teaching lessons off a win is a lot better than teaching them off a loss.”

Putting the Lafayette win in the rear view mirror, Surace didn’t waste any time starting to prepare for this Saturday’s critical clash with visiting Brown, which is 3-1 overall and 0-1 Ivy League.

“Brown plays good, solid football; you know they are going to give an honest effort,” said Surace, whose team has a 1-0 Ivy record by virtue of its 33-6 win at Columbia on September 29.

“When I was on the bus at 10:30 on Saturday, I was looking at my Brown notes. As soon as the sun was up on Sunday, I was in the office getting the good taste from Lafayette out of my mouth and looking at Brown. They are going to be the best team, by far, that we have played to this point.”

As Surace looks to get the best from his team, he will be following the formula that has served the Tigers well the last two weeks.

“Every step we take from here is going to be a bigger step,” said Surace. “We have to continue to work hard and focus.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRONZE AGE: Former Princeton University fencing star Maya Lawrence, left, and current Tiger fencer Susie Scanlan enjoy the moment after they were named to the U.S. epee team that competed in the London Olympics. Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton grad who has been living and training in France the last seven years, helped the U.S. take bronze, its first-ever medal in the event. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Maya Lawrence pulled an upset in her opening bout in the individual epee at the London Olympics last month but ended up being angry with herself for getting eliminated in the next round.

“I performed well but had a bad second bout,” said Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton University grad and former fencing star for the Tigers who topped Italy’s Maria Navarria 15-12 in the Round of 32 before losing 15-7 to Rossella Flamingo of Italy in the next round.

“Navarria was No. 7 or 9 in the world so on paper she was a stronger fencer. I was training to win the first bout. It was really exciting to win the first bout, maybe too exciting. I didn’t have time to process emotions.”

Days later, Lawrence experienced an emotional high she won’t ever forget, helping the U.S. to bronze in the team epee event as it topped Russia 31-30 in the third-place match. It was the first-ever medal for the U.S. in the event.

“We were all really excited; we had been through a lot and being able to get a medal at the ends was great,” said Lawrence, who was joined on the team by Princeton junior Susie Scanlan together with sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley.

“It is an individual sport and we are used to competing against each other. I was proud that we were able to come together. You have to stop and regroup and be a team. We did team-building and we managed personalities.”

As 2012 dawned, Lawrence had the sense that the epee team could build into something special.

“In January, I had a feeling that something big was going to happen,” said Lawrence.

“Teams that had been beating us badly weren’t beating us by that much. In the World Cup event in April outside Paris, we got second. That was the best U.S. finish and, on paper, showed that we were capable.”

For Lawrence, it was fitting that the U.S. did well in France as she lives and trains in Paris.

“I have been there for seven years,” said Lawrence, who trains with Maitre Daniel Lavavasseur.

“I knew that I wanted to train in France; I had been training in the French school with Michel [former Princeton coach Michel Sebastiani]. It is a great place to train. I have great guys to train with. We have fencers from different countries.”

The influence of Sebastiani, a master of traditional French fencing technique who runs Sebastiani Fencing Academy in Princeton, helped spur Lawrence to keep competing on an international level.

“I am not sure I would have continued; he was the only one who thought I could do this,” said Lawrence, a native of Teaneck, N.J., who was a four-time All-Ivy League selection and an All-American during her Tiger career.

“He was the most emotionally supportive coach I have had, expressing to me that I had the ability to do this. He always told me to keep working.”

Lawrence had to work hard to finally qualify for the Olympics, having fallen short in 2004 and 2008.

During the Opening Ceremony at the London Games, the magnitude of making the Olympics hit Lawrence.

“At first, I didn’t feel anything but then I saw a training partner, a Tunisian,” said Lawrence. “We had shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears together. We started bawling.”

Competing together on the U.S. team with fellow Princeton standout Scanlan has been a good feeling for Lawrence.

“I graduated way before she did; we have never been on a team before,” said Lawrence.

“We get along pretty well. She is really good at motivating the team. She is mature beyond her years.”

The U.S. epee team brought plenty of motivation into the competition in London. “The whole second half of the season we have been talking to each other saying that we could do it,” said Lawrence.

“We were definitely the underdogs. There were probably only five or six people in the room that thought we could do it. All the teams that were supposed to get a medal lost in the first round.”

The U.S. pulled an upset in the quarterfinals, topping Italy 45-35 but then stumbled in the semifinals as it fell 45-36 to South Korea.

“Romania was seeded No. 1 and they had lost,” said Lawrence, reflecting on the loss to South Korea.

“This was the tableau of our dream and we couldn’t miss this chance. But we were fencing not to lose, we were to cautious against South Korea.”

In the bronze medal match, the U.S. faced Russia and pulled out a 31-30 triumph.

“We had beaten them a year ago but they had beaten us badly since,” said Lawrence.

“We went back to the strategy that beat them. We didn’t think that we had to run after them. We wanted to be cautious but aggressive when opportunities to score came up.”

In the aftermath of their achievement, Lawrence and her teammates got to soak up the scene around London over the last week of the Summer Games.

“We had some free time to go out and celebrate and see other events,” said Lawrence. “We did a lot of interviews; it was fun to be there without the stress of competition.”

Lawrence, now 32, plans to keep competing with an eye to possibly taking part in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“I have goals,” said Lawrence. “I am No. 19 individually, I would like to be in the top 16. I would like to do better in World Cup events and the World Championships.”

September 12, 2012

GROUP DYNAMIC: Members of the Princeton University football team enjoy a light moment during the program’s annual media day last Friday. Coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, the Tigers are hoping to smile a little more this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2012 campaign with a game this Saturday at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When assessing the state of a Princeton University football program that is coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Tiger head coach Bob Surace cites the words of a legendary figure around town.

“Last Saturday after our scrimmage my daughter said ‘daddy I have a quote for you,’” recalled third-year head coach Surace,

“She said ‘learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.’ That’s a quote from Albert Einstein. It is kind of where we are at. We are learning from the mistakes we made last year, things in the red zone, turnovers; things that we have to learn from if we are going to get this fixed. We live for the moment. We gave out T-shirts right away this year that say ‘believe.’ There is hope for tomorrow.”

The Tigers could take a major step in making believers out of their supporters this Saturday if they can win their season opener at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).

Surace knows the Tigers face a major challenge in the Mountain Hawks, who have won two straight against Princeton and 10 of the last 13 meetings in the series.

“They are a well-coached team,” said Surace, whose squad fell 34-22 to Lehigh in last year’s season opener.

“They get us in their third game and by the time we get them, whatever errors they may have had in the first two weeks have been corrected. They are a physical team. Their receiver Ryan Spadola is as good a football player as I have seen in my two years here. He’s exciting and he makes plays.”

With Princeton losing last year’s Rookie of the Year Chuck Dibilio as he takes a leave of absence after suffering a stroke earlier this year, the Tigers will be depending on senior running back Akil Sharp to make a lot of big plays.

Tiger offensive coordinator believes that the the 5’9, 210-pound Sharp is ready to fill the void left by Dibilio, who rushed for 1,068 yards last fall.

“Akil has shown that he is a trustworthy back and that he can do a lot of things,” said Perry of Sharp, who rushed for 244 yards in 2011.

“His development as a senior has been very good to see. It is nice having a senior who is the guy stepping into a situation like that. He has done a nice job of seizing things and being at the forefront.”

Others in the mix at running back include sophomore Will Powers and Jonathan Esposito together with a pair of promising freshmen, DiAndre Atwater and Dre Nelson.

Perry acknowledged that nobody has seized the starting job at quarterback with sophomores Quinn Epperly (23-for-52 passing for 259 yards, 215 yards rushing in 2011) and Connor Michelson (3-for-5 passing for seven yards) locked in a battle with freshman Kedric Bostic in the mix.

“Right now there is no separation, they have all done a good job,” said Perry, a record-setting quarterback for Brown during his college days.

“I know that is a premier position and people want to know what is going on. We needed depth there in a big way and we have gotten depth. Coach Surace and myself feel very strongly that we are in a much better position having guys who can play and not being hamstrung into a position where you feel if something happens to one guy, you are in a tough spot. I think we will reap the rewards of both the competition at that position in particular but across the board at all positions.”

The competition has been particularly stiff at wide receiver where several players are battling for snaps including senior Shane Wilkinson (38 receptions for 384 yards in 2011), sophomore Matt Costello (29 receptions for 341 yards), senior Tom Moak (9 receptions for 86 yards), sophomore Seth DeValve (1 reception for 10 yards), junior Roman Wilson (2 receptions for nine yards), and sophomore Connor Kelley (3 receptions for 23 yards).

“In modern college football you have to be able to throw the ball period,” said Perry.

“We were able to throw the ball much better in the spring and at this camp because we have a group of wide receivers who are all playing much better. We have been able to generate far more explosive plays in the pass game, those guys collectively have all stepped up.”

Princeton is hoping that senior tight end Mark Hayes (11 receptions for 107 yards) can step up and be a bigger part of the offense.

“Mark is as good a blocking tight end as you will have in college,” maintained Perry.

“He can catch the ball very well. I know last year there were some moments where we wanted to get more productivity out of him in the pass game.”

The Tigers are looking to senior Kevin Mill to help the offensive line be a productive unit.

“Kevin Mill is a guy at the tackle position who is a senior,” said Perry. “He is a guy with terrific ability and last year he came off an ACL and played well. Now he is two years removed from that and playing very well. He is providing leadership across the board. Those guys have a lot of experience and experience together. We are expecting big things out of that unit.”

The line will feature junior Joe Goss at center with junior Taylor Pearson and Max Coale listed as the starters at guard and sophomore Spenser Huston pencilled in at the other tackle spot. Others in the mix include a trio of sophomores Tom Yetter, Jack Woodall, and Ryan Peloquin together with senior Hanur Kim and freshman Britt Colcolough.

Princeton should get some big things out of its defensive line which features senior co-captain Mike Catapano, a two-time All-Ivy selection with 108 career tackles and classmate Caraun Reid, a first-team All-Ivy pick last fall when he had 68 tackles and eight sacks. The line also includes two other key veterans in senior Matt Landry and junior Greg Sotereanos.

“It is hard to block Catapano, Reid, and Sotereanos, that is a really deep group,” said Surace.

“You have to game plan to play those guys and it is hard when you have two like Catapano and Reid, you can’t slide the line both ways.”

The Tiger linebacking crew should make things hard for Princeton’s foes, headed by senior co-captain Andrew Starks, a two-time All-Ivy honoree, sophomore Garrett Leicht, and battle-tested senior Tim Kingsbury.

“Andrew plays the game the right way, he plays it hard,” added Surace. “Garrett Leicht has had his hands on the football more times in camp than our linebackers combined in the last two years.”

Surace is hoping that senior strong safety Mandela Shaeffer will get his hands on the ball more as he leads a secondary that includes sophomore star Khamal Brown and junior Trocon Davis at cornerback along with junior Philip Bhaya at free safety.

“It is fulfilling to see Mandela Shaeffer just making plays,” said Surace. “He is not just saying its cover three and I am in my spot, but he is unleashing and making plays.”

The preseason has seen some good playmaking all around, according to Surace.

“The guys are excited; we are having a really good training camp,” said Surace.

“I like the way we are practicing. I like the way we approach things. This team looks like it is going to be a very mature team.”

In Surace’s view, his maturation as a head coach has the team on the same page as it heads into the Lehigh clash.

“You know your team, you know people better,” said Surace. “You build relationships. All those guys who are seniors, I didn’t know their parents, I didn’t know their high schools so you need to build relationships, you need to build trust. Before they were doing it because we told them to. Now I think we have built a family where they now understand what we are trying to do.”

STARK REALITY: Princeton University linebacker Andrew Starks heads to an interview at the program’s recent media day. Senior star and co-captain Starks is looking to start his final college campaign with a bang as the Tigers play at 14th-ranked Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday in their season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Starks made an immediate impact at safety during his freshman season with the Princeton University football team in 2009.

The Plainfield, Ill. native recorded 33 tackles and two pass breakups, earning the Harlan “Pink” Baker Award as Princeton’s top defensive freshman along with lineman Caraun Reid.

After watching Starks’ exploits, the Princeton coaches decided that he could make an impact elsewhere on the field and moved him to linebacker.

Starks was a little out of step initially as he made the transition to his new spot in the field.

“It was definitely an adjustment; I had been playing safety pretty much all my life and then moving to linebacker, things seemed to speed up quite a bit,” said Starks.

“You don’t have quite as much reaction time. Fortunately we have a great coaching staff here and they worked me a lot in the offseason and spring ball and summer camp.”

Applying those lessons well, Starks made the coaches look pretty smart, earning All-Ivy League Honorable Mention as a sophomore in 2010 with 89 tackles. Last fall, Starks recorded 80 tackles in nine games, including five for a loss, on the way to earning second-team All-Ivy recognition.

Growing into a leader as well as a star linebacker, Starks enters this fall as one of Princeton’s team captains and top players as the Tigers look to get back on the winning track after back-to-back 1-9 campaigns.

“I am looking forward going into my senior year having two years under my belt playing linebacker,” said Starks, whose final college season kicks off when the Tigers play at Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday. “It should be a good year.”

Starks acknowledged that it took him much of his sophomore year to develop a comfort level in his new spot.

“It was a bit of an adjustment; it took a little getting used to,” said Starks, who now packs 240 pounds on his 6’2 frame.

“But as the season progressed sophomore year, I felt more like a true linebacker than a safety playing linebacker. I felt pretty comfortable in the Brown game and made some big plays in that one. I started to get the hang of things and loosened up a little bit. It was a lot less thinking and a lot more just running around and playing. I kind of built on that last year as well.”

While last year was disappointing for Princeton in terms of its record, Starks believes the program made strides.

“The record wasn’t anywhere near where we wanted it to be but we did see a tremendous amount of improvement,” said Starks.

“We had a lot of young guys playing last year that are fortunately coming back this year. We have a lot of experience with everyone having another year under their belt and another year of offseason conditioning and lifting, another spring ball, and another summer camp. I think we are in pretty good shape. I think people are starting to feel comfortable and we should see the results.”

Starks feels fortunate to have been chosen as a team captain for the 2012 Tigers.

“It is a tremendous honor on a team where you have so many leaders and so many people doing the right thing,” said Starks, who will be serving as captain along with with senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano.

“To be chosen as one of the guys that everyone else looks to is just a huge honor. I couldn’t be more proud of what this team has done and to be given the opportunity to lead them off the field and on the field this year as a captain.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace is proud to have Starks as one of the leaders of his squad.

“He is just such a good person,” asserted Surace. “He is really mature; he knows how to approach people. He handles all the things you have to handle at a great school like Princeton — academics, social, leadership, and football. He has a great way about him.”

For Starks, having the title of captain isn’t going to change the way he handles things.

“As far as my leadership style I try not to do anything different than I did before; I think I was named captain for a reason,” said Starks.

“I just try to lead by example; I think the guys respect my work ethic and what I am doing. I feel if I keep that up and do the things I have been doing in the last three or four years, everybody else will follow that. I think that is the only thing you can do. You can’t expect the guys to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. If I am doing things right, putting my best effort forward and putting in the time to do extra work, people will see that and they will do the same.”

As Starks looks ahead to the Lehigh clash, he believes Princeton’s hard work over the last few years is going to start paying dividends.

“I definitely feel this program is ready to turn a corner,” said Starks. “I think we showed moments last year; we just didn’t show it for 60 minutes. That is what we need to do this year. Once we can do that, we will have a great season. I am looking forward to getting started against Lehigh this coming week.”

HISTORIC STRIKE: Princeton University field hockey star Katie Reinprecht prepares to strike the ball last Sunday in Princeton’s 2-1 win over visiting Richmond. Midfielder Reinprecht scored the first goal as the Tigers opened play at their new Bedford Field. She later assisted on the game-winning goal by Allison Evans to help the fourth-ranked Tigers improve to 4-0. Princeton opens Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 15 and then hosts Delaware a day later.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After taking a leave of absence from the Princeton University field hockey team over the last year to play with the U.S. National Team and compete in the Olympics, Katie Reinprecht was not sure what to expect upon her return to the Tiger program.

“I was a little nervous, I thought it was going to be weird, seeing that I didn’t know two whole grades that are here,” said senior midfielder Reinprecht. “It was definitely a little different than it has felt in the past.”

It didn’t take long for Reinprecht to get back in the swing of things upon her return to Princeton last month.

“It is amazing how natural and familiar it feels once you get into it,” said Reinprecht. “It was pretty seamless.”

Last Sunday, the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year displayed her familiar excellence, scoring a goal and assisting on the game-winner as fourth-ranked Princeton edged visiting Richmond 2-1 in the first game played on Bedford Field.

Reinprecht and her teammates were excited to christen the program’s sparkling new facility.

“I feel fortunate to be here for its opening year; it was pretty cool,” said Reinprecht, whose clutch play helped the Tigers improve to 4-0.

“I think today we were a little frustrated with our performance for the opening game. They played us really well today, give them a lot of credit. They had energy the whole game. They definitely gave us a good matchup. It was a good competitive environment.”

Although Reinprecht made history by scoring the first goal at the field, she acknowledged it wasn’t a play for the highlight reel.

“I actually almost screwed it up,” said Reinprecht with a laugh. “I got a little lucky to be honest. I saw I had to take it on my reverse and get it off any way I could.”

Even though Princeton found itself locked in a 1-1 tie with 10:15 left in the second half, Reinprecht was confident that the Tigers wouldn’t screw things up.

“It’s hard not to get a little alarmed but I felt confident in our playing style, the players on our team, and the talent that we have that we would be able to come back and get the win,” said Reinprecht.

“Obviously it is not something you want to have to do with 10 minutes left in the game. It is a good test of our mental strength, I think.”

On the game-winning goal, Reinprecht displayed her strength as a playmaker as she set up Allison Evans’ tally in the waning moments of the contest.

“I saw Sharkey cutting across the top and they were all flocking to her and I knew I could sneak in behind,” recalled Reinprecht.

“She found me on a really nice pass and then there were three Princeton girls in front of the goal and I just had to pick one of them.”

In Reinprecht’s view, the Tigers are off to a really nice start this fall. “That was our goal for the first phase of the season; we wanted to come out and get four wins,” said Reinprecht.

“I am happy with the start we have had in terms of the competition we have matched up against. I think we are excited with the start, especially since we are starting a little later being an Ivy League team.”

While Reinprecht wasn’t excited by the U.S. team’s 12th-place finish at the London Olympics, she believes that competing at that level can only benefit her in the long run.

“It was an absolutely incredible experience; I will definitely never forget it,” said Reinprecht, who was joined on the U.S. team by younger sister and fellow Tiger star, Julia.

“It is something I want to do again. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted but the Olympic experience is more than the two-week tournament. It was really the year building up for me. I learned so much about the hard work it takes to really improve as a player and how you need to push yourself.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn certainly appreciates the work she gets from Reinprecht.

“Katie has such an engine, physiologically she is just a machine,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “The work that she does on both sides of the ball is spectacular.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that Richmond (3-2) gave the Tigers a run for their money on Sunday.

“I give them a lot of credit,” said Holmes-Winn. “What is concerning to me is that we had 14 shots and we only made the keeper play the ball twice. That’s something we look at but there were some really good patches of hockey. We played possession really well. I think we manipulated their structure in a way that we talked about.”

Despite its 4-0 start, Princeton needs to get more out of its possessions. “If someone told me the issue with our team would be finishing that would be a real shock to me but it has been our issue in these past couple of games,” added Holmes-Winn.

“It is just figuring out how to be more effective with our numbers; that will be a big key to that. We have players who are playing well; it is just a matter of breaking through and getting our mojo on attack. We certainly have the personnel to do it. It is just a matter of having that moment where here it is. We haven’t had that and that will come. These guys need to get away from thinking so much, There is a lot of information transferred in the first couple of weeks and now we have to pull back and let them play.”

With Princeton bolstered by the return of the Reinprecht sisters together with Michelle Cesan and Kat Sharkey from national team duties, the Tigers are going to get the spirited play from their foes.

“A lot of it is team dynamic and chemistry,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team opens Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 15 and then hosts Delaware a day later.

“I feel that it is good that the opposition is going to perceive themselves as the underdog in just about every game. When you are an underdog, I think there is a very clear task orientation and I think for us to have to play against that certainty is amazing. It is good that there is that elevation that is going to occur from the opposition which will make us better in the long run.”

Reinprecht, for her part, believes that the four returners will help Princeton elevate its game on a daily basis.

“We probably demand more out of them than they may be used to because we are used to having that demanded of us,” said Reinprecht,

“I know there is a lot of talent in the four girls who came back, that is just one thing. I think just mentally and personality wise we brought some good flavor back to the program. We have overarching goals and then smaller goals. We have high hopes.”

September 5, 2012

GOAL RUSH: Princeton University women’s soccer star Jen Hoy controls that ball last Friday in Princeton’s 2-1 loss to Wake Forest in its season opener. Senior striker Hoy scored the Tigers’ lone goal in the defeat and then added three more tallies on Sunday as Princeton tied Colgate 4-4. Hoy was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance over the weekend. In upcoming action, Princeton hosts St. Joseph’s on September 7 and Temple on September 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Some people around the Princeton University women’s soccer program have dubbed Jen Hoy as “The Franchise” and the senior star certainly looked the part last Sunday.

As the Tigers battled Colgate in the final game of the Princeton Invitational, the speedy forward dominated the proceedings, scoring three goals in the first 50 minutes of the contest to give her team a 3-0 lead.

After falling 2-1 to Wake Forest on Friday in the opening night of action, Hoy and her teammates were determined to get on the board early against Colgate.

“We came out strong, our mantra is ‘fight’ and that is how we have been holding ourselves and how we have been trying to play the game,” said Hoy, who had Princeton’s lone goal in the loss to Wake. “I got us a goal early on and the game seemed to be flowing.”

But the flow of the game turned against Princeton as the Raiders outscored the Tigers 4-1 over the last 38 minutes of regulation to pull out a 4-4 tie in double overtime.

Princeton lost starting goalie Kristin Watson and star defender Diane Metcalf-Leggette to injury by halftime and had trouble holding its defensive shape down the stretch.

“That was a very weird game,” said Hoy. “I think we responded well [to the injuries] but things continued to fall apart and the momentum was working against us.”

Hoy gave Princeton early momentum, scoring at the 19:01 mark as she raced past and through the Colgate defense and blasted the ball into the top corner. Some 20 minutes later, Hoy tallied again, converting a Rachel Sheehy feed.

“This season I have been trying to turn my mind off and do what comes naturally,” said Hoy, a Sellersville, Pa. native who scored eight goals last fall on the way to earning first-team All-Ivy League honors.

“I was able to beat the defender on me and I saw another one coming and I knew I was going to cut across her and the goal. I shot it in the right corner of the net. On the second one, Sheehy is fantastic at playing through balls and it just popped right out in front of me and I was able to tap that one in.”

Early in the second half, Hoy displayed the hustle reminiscent of Princeton assistant coach and all-time leading Tiger goal scorer Esmeralda Negron, galloping into the face of the goalie and converting when she mishandled the ball.

“Es is always telling me to pressure every single ball because you never know what is going to come out of it,” said Hoy, reflecting on the tally which gave her the second hat trick of her career, the first coming when she scored three goals in a 6-3 win over James Madison in September, 2010.

“I definitely thought of her on that goal. You are in the right place at the right time because you worked hard to get there.”

In the wake of last weekend’s frustrations, Hoy is ready to get back to work. “I think life is about taking losses and mistakes and figuring out how you are going to respond,” said Hoy, who was named Ivy Player of the Week for her productive weekend.

“I think what we are going to do now is figure out the best way to move forward because we are going to move forward. I am excited for our next game.

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford was certainly excited by the way Hoy played in the opening weekend.

“Jen was phenomenal; she has done really well,” said Shackford of Hoy, who now has 22 goals in her Princeton career.

Shackford acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t play too well down the stretch in the draw with Colgate.

“We fell apart; I just think we panicked and they felt a sense of urgency,” said Shackford, whose team hosts St. Joseph’s on September 7 and Temple on September 9.

“It was a combination of both. They have a few more games under their belt; they had a little more energy at the end.”

Despite being disappointed that her team let a win get away, Shackford knew her squad faced some stiff tests in Wake and Colgate. “It is a tough opening weekend against two good teams,” said Shackford.

“I think we expended a lot in that Friday night game emotionally. I am sure that took a toll on us as well and having to absorb the loss of a couple of starters was pretty difficult for us on a day like today. Maybe on another day it would not have been so hard but today it was rough.”

Shackford hasn’t lost any confidence in her team, realizing that the season is a marathon.

“A lot of it is hard to assess, you don’t know how much is game fitness and mental fatigue,” said Shackford.

“We just lost our legs at the end; it is our second game. I told them that we can’t lose a 4-1 game but at same time I know in the back of my head that the second game is always the toughest.”

Hoy, for her part, believes that she and the seven other seniors on the squad have what it takes to end things on a high note.

“We really want to do something great for this program; we want to lead our team,” asserted Hoy.

“We have struggled in these first two games. We have played great but we have had some unfortunate outcomes. I am going to stop thinking about what happened and look forward because that is the only way we are going to continue with our season.”

SHARK WEEKEND: Princeton University field hockey star Kat Sharkey races up the field in 2010 action. Last weekend, senior Sharkey started her final college campaign in style, scoring three goals to help No. 4 Princeton beat No. 5 Duke 5-2 on Friday and then tallying all four scores as the Tigers topped 13th-ranked Wake Forest 4-2 two days later. Sharkey is one of four Tigers, along with Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia, who have returned to the program after taking a leave of absence last year to train with the U.S. National Team. Princeton will look to keep rolling when it plays at No. 9 Penn State on September 6 before opening its new Bedford Field by hosting Richmond on September 9.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University field hockey team opened its season with games at Duke and Wake Forest last weekend, Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn viewed the trip as a fact-finding mission.

“It’s hard, you are never completely prepared when you have 12 days of practice and the other team has games under its belt,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We wanted to learn as much about ourselves as we could; we wanted to see how much we could stretch the opposition.”

In that learning process, the fourth-ranked Tigers ended up teaching their foes a lesson, topping No. 5 Duke 5-2 last Friday and then beating 13th-ranked Wake Forest 4-2 on Sunday.

Holmes-Winn certainly gained some positive information from the weekend. “We wanted to see how our structure would function and hold up,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We did create spaces and we generated some really good attack play. I was happy with how fluid our structure enabled us to be. We looked good physiologically; we played well in the second half of both games and showed that we have good fitness. We showed that we have a good bench, we were able to play everyone.”

The Tigers also showed some character as they battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits against Wake before pulling away to the 4-2 victory.

“These girls are so professional; they don’t get rattled,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They know what they are capable of. Going into the second half of the Wake game, we talked about having better concentration. You can have the best structure around but it doesn’t mean anything if you are not concentrating in the moment. They went out and did really well.”

Senior star striker Kat Sharkey displayed good concentration, scoring three goals in the win over Duke and then tallying all four scores in the Wake victory.

“Kat created some of her opportunities but midfield gave her room to operate,” said Holmes-Winn of Sharkey, one of four Tigers, along with Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia, who were returning to the program after taking a leave of absence last year to train with the U.S. National Team in preparation for the London Olympics.

“Her scoring was partially the product of that. On her penalty corner goals, she got direct shots and showed pinpoint accuracy.”

Princeton got some outstanding play over the weekend from the Reinprechts together with Allison Evans, Charlotte Krause, and Amanda Bird.

“Katie was just outstanding; she is just such a smart player,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“She and Julia control the midfield and keep the things organized. They were exceptional. Allison Evans did some good running on attack. Charlotte Krause and Amanda Bird did some great things in the back.”

The trio of Sharkey and the Reinprecht sisters provide more than on-field excellence.

“The chemistry is going to be a good thing for us; we have all the pieces in place,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Kat, Katie, and Julia are our captains. It is great to see that their transition back has been seamless. They do things off the field to help bring the team together. It is a combination of factors; they have shown that they are the ones to lead the group.”

The Tigers will need that chemistry and leadership this Thursday when they face another road test with a contest at No. 9 Penn State (3-1).

“They have tons of speed; they are great at transition on both sides of the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team will open its new Bedford Field by hosting Richmond on September 9.

“We can’t lose focus; we need to pick up our mental energy across 70 minutes of game. We need to be staying in the play. We need numbers around the ball to get space and time. We have to let spacing and structure do the work. We need to spread them out.”

August 29, 2012

COMING HOME: Princeton University field hockey star Katie Reinprecht controls the ball in 2010 action. Reinprecht took a leave of absence from the Princeton program last year along with sister Julia, Michelle Cesan, and Kat Sharkey to train with the U.S. National Team in preparation for the London Olympics. The quartet of Tiger stars is back and fourth-ranked Princeton is primed for a big season. The Tigers open the 2012 campaign by playing at No. 5 Duke on August 31 and at 13th-ranked Wake Forest on September 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

This fall, the Princeton University field hockey team will be opening its sparkling new Bedford Field, a state-of-the-art Astroturf facility adjacent to the Class of 1952 Stadium.

In the view of Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, the team’s new home should prove sweet for players and fans alike.

“The field is amazing,” said Holmes-Winn. “It plays so beautifully; you get true bounces. All the technology is there, no detail was spared.”

The Tigers boast a bevy of glittering stars who should light up the Bedford scoreboard this season, highlighted by the return of All-American performers, Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht, Michelle Cesan, and Kat Sharkey.

The quartet took a leave of absence from the program last year to train with the U.S. National Team in preparation for the London Olympics. The Reinprecht sisters ended up starring for the U.S. at the London games while Cesan was an alternate and Sharkey was one of the last players cut from the squad.

Understandably, Holmes-Winn has welcomed back her big four with open arms.

“The chemistry off the field has been great since they got back; the transition has been seamless,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team is ranked No. 4 in the 2012 Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll.

“On the field, they bring leadership and poise at the highest level and they are extremely hard workers. Those are qualities that are really important.”

The pair of junior Cesan (26 goals and 16 assists in her first two seasons) and senior Sharkey (69 goals and 22 assists in her career) will bring plenty of quality to the Princeton attack.

“They are more mature physically and better athletically and they were already pretty athletic,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team opens its 2012 campaign by playing at No. 5 Duke on August 31 and at 13th-ranked Wake Forest on September 2.

“They have added more dimensions to their games. Sharkey is very sharp; she got to work on her conditioning and game because she didn’t go to the Olympics. Cesan is still working back into it after being at the Olympics. They are both such physically strong players.”

The Tigers will deploy Cesan and Sharkey along with a pair of blue chip sophomores, Allison Evans and Sydney Kirby. Evans tallied 11 goals and five assists last fall in earning second-team All-Ivy League honors and the league’s Rookie of the Year award while Kirby had nine goals and eight assists in making second team All-Ivy.

“Allison was on 70 percent of our corners last year and we will team her up with Sharkey at striker,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided a gritty Tigers squad to a 10-8 mark in 2011 and the program’s seventh straight Ivy crown and 17th in the last 18 years.

“Sydney Kirby and Cesan will be outside mids; they overlap and come up front. We are playing a different style; the girls are still figuring out where the spaces are. We have the potential to be dynamic.”

Holmes-Winn will also be using senior Molly Goodman, senior Charlotte Krause, junior Allegra Mango, and freshman Maddie Copeland, a former Stuart Country Day and Peddie star, on attack.

In the central midfield, Princeton will be relying on senior star Katie Reinprecht to trigger the action. In her first three seasons with the Tigers, Reinprecht piled up 44 goals and 31 assists on the way to earning Ivy Player of the Year awards in 2008 and 2009.

“Katie Reinprecht is a playmaker, she finds spaces like no one I have seen,” asserted Holmes-Winn, noting that freshman Teresa Benvenuti should also make an impact as an offensive midfielder.

“She finds teammates; she knows when to ask for the ball. She brings a lot of pace.”

Reinprecht’s younger sister, junior standout Julia, will play a dual role from the back of the Tiger midfield.

“Julia Reinprecht will be at the bottom of the midfield,” added Holmes-Winn of the younger Reinprecht, who has tallied 14 goals and 20 assists in her first two college campaigns.

“She will have a lot of opportunities to overlap. She is an exceptional playmaker and we don’t want to limit her to defense. She has always been a calm player. She is one of the better mobile defenders in the country.”

The Tigers boast some outstanding defenders in junior Amanda Bird, junior Kelsey Byrne, and senior Amy Donovan.

“Amanda Bird is really versatile; she is a dangerous finisher,” said Holmes-Winn of Bird who tallied nine goals and three assists last fall.

“Kelsey Byrne is another versatile player. We can play them on the back line and in the midfield. Amy Donovan played mainly on the left last year but could see time on the right side this year.”

At goalie, the Tigers have three players who should see time in returning junior starter Christina Maida together with sophomore Julia Boyle and freshman Anya Gersoff.

“Maida looks great,” said Holmes-Winn of Maida who posted a goals against average of 1.88 in 2011.

“All three goalies look good. We hope to establish a top two by October. We want to be able to give all of them opportunities for game action. All have different strengths and weaknesses. We are lucky to have three really good goalies.”

In order to produce a really good season, the Tigers will to have maximize their strengths.

“The defenses will be stingy and packing things in,” said Holmes-Winn, who has posted a 110-56 record in her first nine years guiding the Tigers.

“We need to execute on attack and on penalty corners. We need to have numbers in front of the field. We need to understand the system, knowing who is overlapping and when. We also have to pay attention to details like nutrition, rest, and managing stress.”

As Holmes-Winn looks ahead to the team’s season-opening weekend, she knows the Tigers will be placed under plenty of stress.

“Duke is going to be amazing; they are deep with lots of speed,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It will be a great test. It will expose us; it will give us a lot of information. Wake is really dynamic physically. They are good finishers; they will be organized, without a doubt. We will have to be smart. We need to manipulate the attack but still have cover on defense.”

BOUNCING BACK: Princeton University men’s soccer player Cameron Porter goes after the ball in action last fall. Sophomore forward Porter tallied five goals in 2011 and should be a key offensive weapon for the Tigers this fall as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 5-10-2 campaign. Princeton opens its 2012 season with a game at Seton Hall on August 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jim Barlow will tell you that there is not much difference between first place and the cellar in Ivy League men’s soccer.

“We know how even the league is,” said Princeton head coach Barlow, who is bringing a 119-115-42 record into his 17th season at the helm of the Tigers. “All eight teams believe they can win.”

In 2010, the Tigers’ self-belief proved justified as they went 7-0 in league play on the way to the third Ivy crown in Barlow’s tenure.

Last fall, Princeton’s propensity for ill-timed defensive lapses caused the Tigers to plummet almost all the way to the Ivy basement with a 1-5-1 league record and seventh-place league finish.

“We were just a few bounces away,” said Barlow, in reflecting on the 2011 campaign which saw the Tigers post an overall record of 5-10-2 after going 13-4-1 a year earlier in its championship campaign. “We had high hopes but it didn’t go as we had hoped.”

As the Tigers get ready for the 2012 season, Barlow sees the hunger in his players to bounce back from last year.

“I think a lot of guys were frustrated last year after going to the NCAA tournament the previous two years,” said Barlow, whose team opens the season with a game at Seton Hall on August 31. “The guys made a point to get back into it over the offseason and be focused.”

So far, that focus has paid dividends. “We have a long way to go but we are cautiously optimistic,” said Barlow.

“We are ahead of where we were last year at this point. We are getting good leadership from the seniors. They are pulling the team along; they are ready to push.”

The Tigers will be looking to get a good push up front at forward from sophomores Julian Griggs (3 goals in 2011) and Cameron Porter (5 goals, 2 assists).

“Both Julian and Cameron have talent, athleticism, and a nose for the ball,” said Barlow, noting that freshmen Nico Hurtado and Thomas Sanner will also see time at forward. “They both are a handful for the other teams.”

Senior star and co-captain Matt Sanner could lend a hand at either midfield or forward.

“We still have options with him,” said Barlow of Sanner, who scored a team-high seven goals last fall on the way to earning first-team All-Ivy honors.

“We have him playing midfield. He has done well there in the past but we can move him up top. He had foot surgery after the season last year so he is just getting back into things.”

The Tigers boast two key veterans in the midfield in junior Lester Nare and senior Patrick O’Neil.

“Nare and O’Neil were both starters for us in 2010 when we won the title,” said Barlow, who believes that a trio of freshmen, Jack Hilger, John Kendall, and former Peddie standout Brendan McSherry could make an immediate impact in the midfield. “Lester wasn’t with us last year; he’s back and doing very well.”

In Barlow’s view, the midfield unit could emerge as a strength of this year’s team.

“We feel much better about the midfield than we did a few months ago,” asserted Barlow. “We didn’t know how Nare would look after his layoff and we weren’t sure about the freshmen.”

Barlow feels good having senior co-captain and three-time first-team All-Ivy performer Mark Linnville anchoring his defensive corps.

“Linnville will be leading us in the center of the backline,” said Barlow. “We are also using Andrew Mills, Billy McGuiness, and Alex Wetterman who all have experience. Josh Miller, a freshman from Oregon, has been looking good.”

At goalie, Princeton has three good options in senior Max Gallin, junior Seth MacMillan, and freshman Ben Hummel.

“All three are looking solid; Max stands a little ahead right now,” said Barlow. “Max played a lot in the beginning last year and then MacMillan played at the end. We could have a rotation but if one gets a hot hand, we won’t be taking him out.”

Barlow is hoping his team can get off to a hot start as it looks to put last year in the rear view mirror.

“If we can get some wins in the first part of the season, that will give us confidence,” said Barlow, noting that his team is opening with five straight games against Big East foes, taking on Seton Hall, St. John’s, Rutgers, Georgetown, and Villanova in succession.

“It will help us prepare for the Ivy League even if we lose; playing some of the best teams around has got to help us.”

Princeton will have to be at its best to get off on the right foot in its season-opening contests at Seton Hall and St. John’s.

“St. John’s and Seton Hall are two teams that we have played a lot,” said Barlow.

“St. John’s beat us last year with a goal in the last second of OT; they beat Boston University 3-0 in their opener last week and BU is always a good team. Seton Hall is in its first year without Mannfred [Longtime head coach Manny Schellscheidt] so we don’t know what they are going to look like. It is always a tough game.”

If the Tigers are going to regain their spot in the upper echelon of the Ivy League, they will have to exhibit toughness all over the field.

“We gave up a lot of soft goals last year against the run of play and on counters,” said Barlow.

“We scored enough goals to win the league so we need better team defense and goalkeeping. We need to be playing better when the ball is in front of our net. We have a little more depth than we have had in the past. I think we can play a high energy game and play a few more players.”

ON THE BALL: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Lauren Lazo controls the ball in action last fall. Princeton will be looking to sophomore Lazo to build on a solid debut campaign that saw her tally four goals and four assists on the way to earning Honorable Mention All-Ivy League recognition. The Tigers start their 2012 season by hosting the Princeton Invitational this weekend at Roberts Stadium, facing Wake Forest on August 31 and Colgate on September 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Looking at the statistics, it would appear that the Princeton University women’s soccer team produced another solid campaign in 2011.

The Tigers outscored their foes 27-26 on the season, generating 121 shots on goal to 71 for their opponents and ending up with a 102-43 edge in corner kicks.

But those solid numbers didn’t result in a good fall as the Tigers slipped to 6-10-1 overall and 2-5 in Ivy League action after going 9-6-1 in 2010.

As Princeton head coach Julie Shackford looks ahead to the upcoming season, she believes her returning players learned some valuable lessons from last fall’s frustration.

“It was a weird season, we weren’t a bad team,” said Shackford, who brings a 175-99-21 record into her 18th season at the helm of the Tigers and has guided the program to seven NCAA appearances during her tenure.

“We played some good soccer, we just weren’t consistent at finishing. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The players took it to heart. We had a great spring and they did their homework over the summer.”

Shackford is expecting some good work from her seniors as the program looks to regain its winning ways.

“We have eight seniors and they are strong leaders,” said Shackford, whose team starts the 2012 campaign by hosting the Princeton Invitational this weekend at Roberts Stadium, facing Wake Forest on August 31 and Colgate on September 2.

“You find that teams that have done the best over the years had strong senior leadership. The seniors have maturity and talent; they have been through the ups and downs. Everybody is on board.”

Princeton will be depending on two of those seniors, Jen Hoy and Caitlin Blosser, together with a pair of sophomores, Melissa Downey and Lauren Lazo, to trigger the offense.

“We have a lot of attacking players,” said Shackford. “We have Blosser as a target and then Hoy, Lazo, and Downey right behind them. We are playing all four together; using a 4-2-3-1 formation.”

In Shackford’s view, that alignment will allow the speedy Hoy to find open space.

“Hoy is not going to feel like it is all on her shoulders,” said Shackford of Hoy, who tallied  eight goals and five assists last fall on the way to earning First-team All-Ivy League honors.

“With our depth, she will have more freedom to do what she does best. She will be marked and people will be playing hard against her. She has such a good motor; she goes hard all the time.”

The three other starters up front have the potential to make things hard on Princeton’s foes. Lazo had four goals and four assists in 2011 with Downey tallying two goals and five assists and Blosser having scored nine goals in her Tiger career.

“Lazo is a special player; she can score and she can pass,” added Shackford, who will be using sophomores Jess Haley and Liana Cornacchio on attack.

“She covers so much ground; she can clean up mistakes. Downey is really creative. Blosser is back in form; she is big and is a good header.”

Shackford will be counting on some heads-up play in the midfield from the group of junior Gabrielle Guzman and freshman Jessica Lee together with seniors Rachel Sheehy and Rebecca Schmoys.

“Guzman will be one of the holding midfielders for sure,” said Shackford. “Jessica Lee will see time; she has been playing with the U.S. U-18 team. Rachel Sheehy and Rebecca Schmoys will also get minutes.”

Senior Alison Nabatoff will play a key role in holding the fort along the back line. She will be joined in the defensive corps by junior Diane Metcalf-Leggette, freshman Emily Sura, junior Kacie Kergides, sophomore Gabrielle Ragazzo, and freshman Catherine Hartigan.

“Nabatoff is one of the smarter players we have had; she reads the game very well,” said Shackford.

“Metcalf-Leggette is all good; she is back and doing well. Emily Sura and Kacie Kergides are in the mix. Gabrielle Ragazzo has nailed down the right back position. Catherine Hartigan should also see time in the back.”

Three players could see time at goalie for the Tigers with seniors Kristin Watson and Claire Pinciaro together with sophomore Darcy Hargadon in the mix.

“It will be Watson as the starter with Pinciaro and Hargadon battling for time,” said Shackford. “Watson has experience, size, and physicality. She has a lot of confidence.”

Shackford is confident that her squad has the resources to battle anyone on its schedule.

“We have a lot of depth, we have 23 field players,” said Shackford. “That will come in handy, we have our hands full in the beginning. I think we need to keep everyone healthy and embrace the idea of depth. We will have constant competition for positions which is good; that holds people accountable.”

Enduring disappointment last fall should serve to make the Tigers more competitive in 2012.

“Coming off a season like that is an automatic motivator for the players,” said Shackford. “They have worked hard; they don’t want to have that feeling again.”

The Tigers will be looking to produce a feel-good weekend as they face some formidable foes in their first taste of regular season action.

“I am excited,” said Shackford. “It is a good opportunity to be able to compete with a team like Wake that has a big head start on us. Colgate is a solid Patriot League team. It should be two great games with a great atmosphere.”

CAPITAL GAIN: Princeton University men’s hockey star Andrew Ammon displays his skating form as he chases down a puck. The rising junior forward took part in the Washington Capitals prospect camp earlier this summer and is hoping it will help him enjoy a big winter for the Tigers.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Ammon was excited to get invited to the Washington Capitals prospect camp last summer.

But the Princeton University men’s hockey star never got the chance to go.

An injury sidelined the Tiger forward and kept him from participating in his first National Hockey League pro prospect camp.

When Ammon was offered another opportunity to attend the Capitals camp this summer, the Aldie, Va. native jumped at the chance.

“I definitely went in there with something to prove,” said Ammon. “Missing last year’s camp was a big bummer with the injury. I just wanted to come into camp strong this year especially after finishing the season strong. I wanted to show them what I had.”

The 6‘0, 185-pound rising junior made the most of his second chance with the Capitals prospects. He scored a goal on his first day of workouts at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. and believes he left a strong impression on the club’s staff.

For Ammon, skating with the Capitals also meant skating with his hometown team since he moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 2001 and has been an avid Caps fan most of his life.

“I grew up in the area,” said Ammon. “I’ve been there since I was eleven years old. To go to their practice locker room and actually sit there was a pretty cool feeling.”

Like most prospects, the first outing at a professional camp can be intimidating. However, it did not take long for Ammon to settle in and develop a comfort zone on the ice.

“I really didn’t know what to expect with my first camp going in there,” said Ammon.

“Walking in there was really a feeling of the unknown. But once you start talking to the other guys at camp, you start to feel more comfortable. A lot of the guys are pretty much in the same situation you’re in, but the competition is still there.”

The competition was strong throughout the camp but Ammon feels that he more than held his own against the rest of the
Capitals’ prospects and his hard work will result in visits to Princeton’s Baker Rink by members of the Capitals’ scouting staff.

“They said they would be watching and would definitely make it up to a couple of Princeton games,” said Ammon. “Hopefully, I’m on their radar.”

Ammon is hoping to continue with the recent trend of Princeton players and the professional ranks. Former Tigers George Parros and Kevin Westgarth each were part of a Stanley Cup champion in recent years, while several other Tigers have also played on the professional level.

“Everyone that comes in here wants to move onto the next level,” said Ammon. “Now, it’s becoming more of a reality. The work you need to get there is still there, but the guys definitely believe more now that they can make it.”

Ammon came on strong for the Tigers last season, finishing with four goals and three assists in 24 games as his strong all-around game improved throughout the season. The Tigers also progressed in the second half of the 2011-12 campaign, going 4-5-4 in their last 14 regular season games before falling to Yale in the first round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs to end the winter with an overall record of 9-16-7.

“Everyone’s ready to get back and everyone is looking forward to the season,” maintained Ammon.

“We feel like we finished really strong and we were playing our best hockey at the end of the season.  We’re looking forward to a great year.”

Injuries and the adjustment to a new coaching staff resulted in a slow start for Ammon and the Tigers last season. However, Ammon is excited to work with Tigers head coach Bob Prier for a second straight season as he enters his junior year.

“We did run into quite a few injuries at the beginning of the season,” noted
Ammon.

“Everyone is coming back and we’re on the same page. We’re looking forward to something big this year.”

Ammon believes he can make an even greater impact at Princeton this winter in the wake of his experience this summer.

“I definitely got to see top competition out there,” said Ammon. “It definitely helps my confidence. We had some other guys on our team go to camps, so it should help us.”

As Ammon continues to root for the Capitals this season, he will have a different perspective the next time he checks out his favorite team on television.

“It will be interesting to watch,” said Ammon. “I would definitely like to see myself out there someday.”

SPANISH INQUISITION: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray passes the ball in action this past winter. Over the next 10 days, Bray and the Tigers will be passing through Spain as they make stops in Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid. Princeton has four games scheduled against Spanish pro teams on the trip and will sample the local culture through such activities as attending a FC Barcelona soccer game, enjoying a night of flamenco dancing, and hitting museums and cathedrals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In addition to spending countless hours on the basketball court honing his skills, Princeton University men’s hoops star T.J. Bray has been studying Spanish for years.

“I took Spanish in high school and three semesters here,” said Bray, a rising junior guard from New Berlin, Wis. “We have to take a foreign language here so I took Spanish.”

Over the next 10 days, Bray will get the chance to apply his linguistic knowledge firsthand as the Tigers take a trip to Spain.

The squad will depart on August 29 and make stops in Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid during its jaunt. Princeton has four games scheduled against Spanish pro teams and will sample the local culture through such activities as attending an FC Barcelona soccer game, enjoying a night of flamenco dancing, and hitting museums and cathedrals.

Bray has been looking forward to the journey for months, noting that the Tiger players got confirmation in January that the trip was taking place.

“I can’t wait for it,” said a smiling Bray, after finishing a pre-trip practice last Monday at Jadwin Gym.

“This group of guys is so much fun; we have a blast together. It is going to be as much fun off the court as it will be on the court.”

Bray, who is coming off a breakthrough season last winter when he averaged 7.2 points a game and had a team-high 119 assists as the Tigers went 20-12, believes the Princeton players can get a lot out of the trip on the court.

“A lot of the teams are probably going to be more talented than us because they are all pro players,” said the 6’5, 205-pound Bray.

“Just working hard and playing together will be huge things for us. There were a couple of games last year where we started slowly and that is where we got ourselves in trouble. We have to work on being consistent in our intensity from start to finish.”

Getting the chance to see FC Barcelona’s ultra-talented soccer star Lionel Messi in person figures to be a huge highlight of the trip for Bray.

“I am most excited to tell my kids that I saw Lionel Messi play live,” said Bray.

“When that day comes, being able to say that to my kids will be pretty cool. Messi is unbelievable; everything about him is great. He is quick with the ball and makes everything happen.”

For second-year Princeton head coach and former Tiger star Mitch Henderson, the excursion to Spain reminds him of a trip he took during his college career.

“I went on a trip like this the summer before my senior year; it was a very important trip for that team,” said Henderson, reflecting on a trip to Italy which was a prelude to the memorable 27-2 season produced by the 1997-98 Tiger squad.

“It is like traveling with 12 of your best friends. I remember the bus rides; I remember the hotels. I remember the things that we did off the floor. I remember our record over there. We were very good and I think we went 4-5. We played some really good teams, some Italian first division teams. That group of guys still talks about that trip. It is a once in a lifetime type of trip to go with your friends on something like that.”

In Henderson’s view, his current team should likewise benefit from the international journey which the NCAA allows programs to take once every four years. The Friends of Princeton Basketball group is helping to foot the bill for the excursion.

“I think this is a good older group; it is an opportunity for us to work on some things,” said Henderson, noting that the players got into the swing of things with the five pre-trip practices they went through over the last week.

“We felt like that was the right kind of place for this team to go. It makes sense with this group, we have a good group of juniors and seniors. There are good pro teams there, it will be good competition. We are very lucky to be going.”

While Henderson is not planning to do a lot of on-court experimentation in terms of offensive or defensive tactics, he will be mixing and matching players.

“I want to see who is going to step up,” said Henderson. “We have some guys in place but we are losing a lot of scoring and a lot of shooting. Do we replace that with guy ‘A’ and guy ‘B’ or are we going to be a little different. I want to watch and see what we become and who makes it hard for me to take you off the floor. What I love about playing over there is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. You are going to see a guard or a forward and you don’t know anything about that guy, that he drills 3’s or that he is a really good guard. That will be great for our guys.”

Maybe the greatest thing about the trip for the Tigers will be the chance to enhance the camaraderie that already exists between the players.

“I think our ability to be good is going to depend on how close we are, similar to the team two years ago,” maintained Henderson.

“We need a lot of team chemistry because we have some pieces that are significant and then we have some pieces that need a lot of room to grow. We all get to experience something new together as a team and as a staff.”

Bray, for his part, is confident that the experience in Spain will help the Tigers grow even closer.

“The Princeton offense is five guys moving as one, chemistry is so big in the offense,” said Bray.

“It comes pretty easy for us with everyone liking each other and enjoying being around each other. This trip will make it that much better.”

August 22, 2012

HOME GROWN: Maddie Copeland displays her form in action at a USA field hockey camp. Copeland, a former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout, is currently undergoing preseason training with the Princeton University field hockey program as she starts her college career.

In early August, Princeton University field hockey players, Julia and Katie Reinprecht, achieved their goal of making the Olympics as they played for the U.S. team in the London Summer Games.

This week, former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout Maddie Copeland is accomplishing a long-term goal, hitting the field for the Princeton field hockey program.

The Cranbury resident is currently taking part in the team’s preseason camp as the Tigers prepare for their season opener at Duke on August 31.

Having grown up around the Princeton program, Copeland is thrilled to be donning the orange and black.

“Princeton was my dream; it is something I wanted for a long time,” said Copeland, recalling her emotions when her acceptance to the school was confirmed.

“I have known Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] for a long time; she has been very supportive. I have been to Princeton camps since my freshman year in high school. I went to games in the fall with my parents over the years; it is a really good team to watch.”

Copeland produced a really good high school career, starring at Stuart before transferring to Peddie as a junior.

Although Copeland played just two years for Peddie, she accomplished a lot. The skilled forward scored 33 goals as a junior in 2010, helping the Falcons win both the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state Prep A titles.

A year later, she tallied 41 goals as Peddie repeated as both MAPL and Prep A champions. Copeland was named 2011 New Jersey All-Prep Player of the Year for her role in triggering the title repeat.

“The switch over to Peddie was a really good move for me,” said Copeland, who helped Stuart make the Prep A semifinals and the Mercer County Tournament title game in the fall of 2008 in her freshman season of high school field hockey.

“It was really challenging as a junior; luckily I already knew some of the girls. They chose me as captain the next year; I was really honored by that.”

In reflecting on her success at Peddie, Copeland gives a lot of credit to the girls on the squad.

“My job was to score goals,” said Copeland. “The goals came easily; I played with some really good girls who set me up. I reached 100 goals over my high school career which is something I really wanted to do.”

As she reached her college decision, Copeland came down to two top choices. “I narrowed it down to Duke and Princeton; I also looked at Yale,” said Copeland.

“I had an unofficial visit to Princeton as a junior and then had an official visit after I committed.”

Since the end of her Peddie season, Copeland remained committed to honing her skills.

“I have been playing with my club team; I went to tournaments over Thanksgiving in Arizona and then to the Disneyland event,” said Copeland, who has played club hockey for the Jersey Intensity the last five years. “In late June, I played in the Futures Elite championship event.”

Over the years, Copeland has proven that she can compete on a championship level, succeeding on the national level. She won a Field Hockey National Festival Gold Medal from 2008-11 with the Intensity. She also helped the Intensity take gold at the Disney tournament in 2011 and 2012. Copeland was chosen for the U.S. Field Hockey Junior National Under-17 Squad in 2010 and was a Futures Elite selection in 2010 and 2011.

This summer, Copeland has applied some extra intensity in preparing for her college debut.

“I have spent a lot of time on the conditioning program,” said Copeland. “It is six days a week. It’s about strength and speed. There are sprint workouts, long runs, and weightlifting. I have been doing stick drills with my dad. I have been trying to do as much as I can.”

As she looked forward to the start of preseason practice with the Tigers, Copeland had mixed emotions.

“I am nervous but also so excited,” said Copeland. “I have been waiting for this for so long. I know a lot of girls who are sophomores on the team; I stayed with them during my visit. They have been telling me what to expect.”

Copeland can hardly wait to get on the field with the Reinprecht sisters and Princeton’s other senior national team players, Michelle Cesan and Kat Sharkey. “It is exciting to be playing with them,” said Copeland. “Princeton has the most Olympians returning of any college; it is a great opportunity for me.”

For Copeland, making the most of that opportunity will come down to basics.

“I just want to work really hard and earn a spot on the team,” asserted Copeland, who said she should be getting a look on the forward line but is willing to play wherever the team needs her. “It is going to be difficult with the older girls.”

August 17, 2012

BRONZE STAR: Diana Matheson controls the ball during her brilliant career with the Princeton University women’s soccer team which saw her help the Tigers advance to the 2004 College Cup national semifinals. Last Thursday, Matheson, a 2008 Princeton alum who holds the program career record for assists (26), scored the lone goal as Canada edged France 1-0 to take the Bronze Medal in women’s soccer at the London Olympics. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Diana Matheson helped lead the Princeton University women’s soccer team reach unprecedented heights when it advanced to the 2004 College Cup national semifinals.

Last Thursday, the 2008 Tiger alum’s brilliance sparked the Canadian women’s soccer team to a first as her late goal gave Canada a 1-0 win over France in the Bronze Medal game at the London Olympics.

It was Canada’s first-ever medal in women’s soccer and only the second medal between men’s or women’s soccer, the other coming when the Canadian men won gold in St. Louis in 1904.

Matheson’s first career Olympic goal, in her second Olympics, came in the 92nd minute and was Canada’s only shot on goal for the entire afternoon.

Indeed, the only Canadian shot that fell within the goal frame was midfielder Matheson’s rebound off a French defender, touching off a celebration that became official only seconds later when the second-half added time had run out.

France outshot Canada 25-4 overall and 4-1 on net. Among the 25 were several near misses, posts and crossbars that made it seem the French were only moments from scoring a goal and taking the bronze.

Later, Matheson, Princeton’s career assists leaders with 26, beamed during the medal ceremony and cradled the medal in her hands for moments after it was presented.

The Reinprecht sisters, Katie ’13 and Julia ’14, wrapped up play for the U.S. field hockey last Saturday as the U.S. fell 2-1 to Belgium to finish in 12th place in the tournament.

The U.S. jumped out to a 1-0 lead but Belgium scored two unanswered goals to pull out the win. As they had done all tournament, both Reinprecht sisters played a majority of the game with Julia getting credit for a pair of shots in the contest.

Princeton athletes ended the London Olympics with seven medals, piling up a gold (Caroline Lind ’06 — U.S. women’s 8), two silvers (Adreanne Morin ’06 and Lauren Wilkinson ’11 — Canada women’s 8), and a bronze (Glenn Ochal ’08 — men’s four) in rowing, two bronzes in fencing (Maya Lawrence ’02 and Susie Scanlan ’14 — U.S. team epee), and Matheson’s bronze in women’s soccer.

On Sunday, a Princeton men’s basketball alum, David Blatt ’81, earned a medal in a coaching capacity as he guided Russia to an 81-77 victory over Argentina in the bronze medal game last Sunday. It was the highest Olympic finish in men’s basketball for Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union prior to the 1992 Games.

Blatt became the head coach of the Russian national basketball team in 2006 and guided the team to the 2007 Eurobasket title and a third-place finish in the 2011 Eurobasket tournament.


August 15, 2012

PHILADELPHIA FLYER: Antoine Hoppenot flies up the field in recent action for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS). Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School and Princeton University soccer standout, has gone from being a fan of the Union to an up-and-coming star for the squad in his rookie campaign. The speedy forward had a goal and eight shots in his first 11 MLS appearances. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Last year, Antoine Hoppenot enjoyed heading down the road from Princeton to PPL Park in Chester, Pa. to root for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS).

So when the former Princeton Day School and Princeton University soccer standout was drafted by the Union this past February, he was thrilled.

“I have been to a lot of Union games as a fan,” said Hoppenot, who signed with the club on February 21. “It was perfect for me. I was close to home and my parents could see me play.”

This summer, Hoppenot is drawing the cheers of the Union supporters, utilizing his elusiveness and ball skills to emerge as an up-and-coming star for the squad.

Hoppenot rode the bench for nine of the team’s first 10 games, getting just one minute of time against Columbus on April 14.

On May 26, Hoppenot saw 25 minutes of action in a 1-0 loss to Toronto. Less than a month later, Hoppenot scored his first career goal as the Union defeated Sporting Kansas City 4-0.

Over the last several weeks, the 5’9, 155-pound forward Hoppenot has become a fan favorite, energizing the Union with his trademark runs to the goal.

When Hoppenot started practicing with the team, he initially wasn’t sure if he could get up to speed to contribute this season.

“Everything is much faster, the ball is zipping around,” said Hoppenot, who tallied 26 goals and 15 assists in his stellar Princeton career which saw him earn All-Ivy League recognition in each of his four years, including being honored as the Ivy Player of the Year on 2010 as a junior when he helped the Tigers take the league title.

“At first, I was just trying to keep up. For a rookie, it is always a little rough at first. It took me three or four weeks to feel comfortable.”

Hoppenot’s comfort level grew on a preseason trip to Costa Rica in late February which saw him score a goal in a 3-0 win over the Costa Rica U-20 Team.

“The Costa Rica trip was great, it was good to get to know the team,” said Hoppenot, who put his final semester at Princeton on hold in order to play with the Union this spring. “The players started getting confidence in me and my ability to play.”

Despite that promising start, Hoppenot realized that breaking into the Union’s rotation was not going to be an easy task.

“I knew it was going to be difficult to get playing time on such a good team that went to the playoffs last year,” added Hoppenot.

“I just went to practice and worked as hard as I could. You have to hope for one opportunity and make the best of it.”

For Hoppenot, taking advantage of a scoring chance and finding the back of the net against Sporting KC on June 23 made for a memorable night.

“That was the greatest feeling,” asserted Hoppenot. “It is one of the best moments I have ever had in soccer. There were 18,000 fans cheering. It was a big game for us and we had a big 4-0 win.”

A coaching change in June which saw Peter Nowak step down as Union head coach to be replaced by assistant coach John Hackworth has led to Hoppenot getting more minutes on the pitch.

“Coach Hack has a lot of confidence in me; he is willing to put me in spots where he thinks I can help the team,” said Hoppenot.

“It is great to come out to practice every week and know that at the end of the week, you may get rewarded with playing time in a game. It is what you dream of.”

Another dream came true for Hoppenot when he made his first MLS start on July 29 as the Union hosted the New England Revolution and posted a 2-1 victory.

“That was incredible; it was great to be in the first-team picture that they take before the game,” said Hoppenot. “My teammates were kidding me that I finally get to have one of those pictures. It was a big crowd; I was pretty excited.”

Off the field, Hoppenot has developed a tight bond with his teammates.

“It has been exciting; we have a lot of young guys who can relate to each other,” said Hoppenot, who shares an apartment with two of his teammates. “We are in the same time of our lives; we like to joke around a lot.”

As he looks ahead to the rest of his rookie campaign, Hoppenot hopes to keep providing excitement for the Union, who were 7-11-2 in their first 20 games to stand eighth of 10 teams in the MLS’s Eastern Conference.

“I am ready to do a little bit of everything,” said Hoppenot, who had a goal and eight shots in his first 11 MLS regular season games.

“I like coming off the bench and bringing energy to the team. If they need someone to start and play 90 minutes, I am ready to do that. It depends on what we need; that changes from week to week. I would like to score a few more goals this season but I don’t have any number in mind. The really important thing is for us to make the playoffs. We need to get as many wins as possible. If we win and I get some goals, that would be great.”

While Hoppenot, who was born in Paris, France, could end up playing in Europe someday, he doesn’t see himself leaving the Union anytime soon.

“I think I will be in the MLS for the near future; I am very young and I have a lot to learn,” said Hoppenot, 21, who is dealing with a fractured nose after getting head-butted by Montreal’s Nelson Rivas on August 4 in a 2-0 loss.

“I am trying to figure out what being a pro means; it is tough going from a four-month season in college to a 9 and a half months in the pros. I am learning more about stretching, nutrition, and rest. I have a lot to improve on before I am ready to think about playing in Europe.”

In addition, Hoppenot is enjoying the cheers he has been getting from the Union faithful.

“The fans have been fantastic,” said Hoppenot. “They have shown me support every step of the way.”

That is no surprise considering that Hoppenot has gone from being one of them to stepping up on the pitch in a big way for the Union.

NATIONAL LEADER: Princeton University women’s hockey head coach Jeff Kampersal makes a point during action last winter. Kampersal, who has guided the Tigers to a 233-184-41 record in his 15-year tenure, was named earlier this year as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 team. This week, Kampersal will be behind the bench for the first time in game action for the U-18 squad as it faces Team Canada in Blaine, Minn. for a three-game series.
(Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Figuring that he was pretty much out of the loop when it came to the U.S. women’s hockey program, Jeff Kampersal wasn’t expecting to be pressed into service any time soon on the national level.

“I had done a lot of U.S. hockey work over the years but I had been out of it since 2006,” said Kampersal, the longtime head coach of the Princeton University women’s hockey team. “Last year I was in a camp with some of the older players.”

But as he was focused on getting the most out of his Tiger women’s team during the 2011-12 campaign, Kampersal got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“The U.S. people called me in the winter and asked me to head the Under-18 women’s national team,” recalled Kampersal.

“I was surprised. It is an exciting opportunity; getting the chance to work with coaches like Courtney Kennedy (a Boston College women’s hockey assistant coach) and Steve Guider (head coach of the Blaine High (Minn.) girls’ hockey team) and some amazing hockey players.”

This week, Kampersal will be behind the bench for the first time in game action for the U-18 squad as it faces Team Canada in Blaine, Minn. for a three-game series.

“We will have the nucleus of the team for that series,” said Kampersal, who has spent much of the summer scouting tournaments and holding camps to narrow his player pool as the team prepares to take part in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World U-18 Championships from December 29, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in Finland.

“If we do well, we won’t make many changes. If we don’t do well, we can look at other players over the fall.”

In putting together the best team possible, Kampersal is drawing on the experience he has gained from heading the Tiger women’s program over the last 15 years and guiding it to a 233-184-41 record.

“About 75 percent of the job of a college coach is recruiting; I believe I can evaluate players,” said Kampersal, a 1992 Princeton graduate who was a star defenseman for the Tiger men’s hockey program.

“At this level, we have a depth of strong players. We don’t have an exceptional player but we have a lot of good players. If I took the first 20 and you took the second 20, we could have a good seven-game series. We may not want to take the 12 best forwards, we may want to take three who grind and three with speed.”

In Kampersal’s view, the experience of leading the U-18 team should make him a stronger coach.

“I think running bigger practices will help me,” said Kampersal, noting that cutting players has been the toughest aspect of the job.

“It is good working with the other coaches and sharing ideas on things like power plays. We need to keep it as simple as possible. We can’t overcoach. There is not enough time to do that but we can emphasize basic principles.”

Getting to apply those principles on a world stage will be exciting for Kampersal.

“I have been involved in a U-22 series against Canada but I never represented the U.S. in a world championship as either a player or coach; it is really special,” said Kampersal. “It has been a lot of fun so far; the people are amazing.”

August 8, 2012

SENATORIAL BID: Michael Sdao, left, heads up the ice in action for the Princeton University men’s hockey team. Rising senior defenseman Sdao recently completed his third summer prospects camp with the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League. Sdao, a first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-ECACH pick last season, was drafted by the club in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After getting drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the seventh round of the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Michael Sdao continues to get acquainted with the club.

The rising Princeton University men’s hockey senior defenseman recently completed a week at the team’s summer prospects camp, marking his third straight appearance at the annual session.

Taking part in the camp gave Sdao a chance to see how he measured up against many of the players he will compete with for a chance to fulfill his dream of playing in the National Hockey League. For Sdao, skating with the Senators provided an opportunity to not only show off his skills with the puck, but to also prove he could hold his own when the physicality increased.

“There was a little bit of that,” said the 6’4, 230-pound Sdao, referring to the rough stuff that comes with the NHL game.

“It is a development camp. It’s all about player development and trying to improve your skills. The physical play is part of the game, so sometimes that does come up.”

Sdao is developing a comfort level with the organization as he got to skate again with his fellow prospects at the Bell Sensplex, the Senators’ training facility.

“It was great,” asserted Sdao, a native of Niwot, Colo.

“It was good to go back there and see some of my friends and roommates from past years. It was my third time in camp, so I have a really good relationship with a lot of the guys. It’s such a great city and great place to be.”

The players were tested throughout the camp with a series of intense workouts that were designed to help prepare the prospects for what they will face in the future.

“You definitely get a taste of what it’s like to be a pro,” said Sdao. “It’s intended to make you hungry and get to the next level, and that’s definitely what it’s done for me.”

Sdao’s play at Princeton as well as his performance at the development camps has opened plenty of eyes in the Senators’ front office.

“They’ve talked to me about my career after Princeton,” added Sdao, a starter from day one of his college career who has 39 points on 18 goals and 21 assists in 87 appearance for the Tigers.

“They expect me to be a big part of the organization down the line. They’re very engaged in their prospects. Every year, they’ve been able to make it to some of my games and I’m thankful for that.”

Sdao’s improvement can be credited, in large part, to the ice time he has earned at Princeton. After scoring nine points as a freshman and 10 the next year, Sdao emerged as the Tigers’ top blue-liner last season. He appeared in 30 games, scoring 10 goals and adding ten assists. Sdao also logged more minutes than any other Princeton defenseman and had more goals than any defender in ECAC Hockey.

“I got to play more minutes and develop my skills,” said Sdao, who was named as a first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-ECACH pick last season.

“I also got some power play time and a lot of penalty-kill time.  Just to play as much as I was able to play made it a great year.”

Last year didn’t end well for Sdao and the Tigers as they were eliminated by Yale in the first round of the ECACH Playoffs and ended the winter with an overall record of 9-16-7.

Sdao’s time in Ottawa coupled with his desire for a longer postseason run has increased his excitement for the upcoming season at Princeton which will start with scrimmages against the University of Guelph (Ontario) on October 19 and 20 at Hobey Baker Rink with regular season play commencing the next weekend with the Ivy League Shootout at Brown University.

“Everyone is ready to go,” said Sdao, who will be serving as assistant captain of the squad for a second straight season.

“You get through July and everyone is itching to get back to school. The way last season ended definitely left a bad taste in our mouths.”

While this will be Sdao’s last season at the college level, he hopes there is a lot of hockey ahead of him as he is determined to pursue a pro career. Over the past few years several Tiger players have found success in the NHL ranks, with George Parros and Kevin Westgarth having both gone from Princeton to the top of the hockey world as members of Stanley Cup champions.

Those two former Tigers needed to become handy with their fists to reach the NHL and gain a foothold. Sdao is hoping his skills will be his ticket, but understands there may be a time when he has to fight.

“That’s definitely part of the game,” said Sdao. “It’s something that happens and there’s a time and a place for it. You just have to know when it is. But I don’t want to be known as a one-dimensional player. There’s so much more to the game.”

Although Sdao’s focus is squarely on giving as much as he can to Princeton this winter, he acknowledges that the dream of becoming a professional is never far from his thoughts.

“That’s in the back of your mind all the time,” said Sdao. “You just want to watch and learn from what those guys are doing. Watching Hockey Night in Canada makes you wish that someday, that will be you.”