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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 30, 2013
OVERACHIEVERS: Princeton University linebacker Jason Ray heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Ray made 12 tackles to help Princeton top Harvard 51-48 in triple overtime. The Tigers, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, are tied for first in the league standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy) and will look to keep on the winning track when they host Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OVERACHIEVERS: Princeton University linebacker Jason Ray heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Ray made 12 tackles to help Princeton top Harvard 51-48 in triple overtime. The Tigers, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, are tied for first in the league standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy) and will look to keep on the winning track when they host Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christopher Eisgruber is a busy guy these days as he settles into his new role as the president of Princeton University.

But last Saturday afternoon, he took the time to send a message to mark a bit of school history.

Eisgruber was one of the many well-wishers who contacted Princeton University football coach Bob Surace in the wake of the Tigers’ epic 51-48 triple overtime win at previously undefeated Harvard.

“I am lucky it was a road game,” said Surace, a former Tiger football star reflecting on the marathon which was the first triple overtime game in program history.

“I had 70 e-mails and texts waiting for me when I got on the bus, from the president of the school, to alums, to my college roommates. That’s what happens when you coach at your alma mater.”

The congratulations were certainly justified as Princeton achieved a second straight win for the ages over the arch rival Crimson, matching the drama of last year’s triumph which saw Princeton rally from a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to stun a then-undefeated Harvard squad 39-34.

For Surace, it was special to simply be on the sideline of a second straight classic. “We are just calling the plays, it is the players who are out there executing and playing their hearts out,” said Surace, whose team piled up 520 yards of total offense and exceeded 50 points for the third time this season in improving to 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League while the Crimson dropped to 5-1 overall, 2-1 Ivy.

“It was a beautiful thing to be part of a special game between two such historic schools. It gives you chills.”

Like Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier to push him to his limit, Princeton and Harvard bring out the best in each other.

“I think it was two really good teams playing against each other,” said Surace.

“It was like a pay-per-view boxing match; sometimes you get a dud and sometimes you get a classic where you keep the ticket. It was two teams where there was going to be a wave of points each way.”

Like last year, the decisive blows were landed by the passing combination of Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson. In 2012, Epperly hit Wilson for a 34-yard touchdown that provided the margin of victory. On Saturday, lefty junior Epperly floated a six-yard pass to senior Wilson in the third overtime to clinch the win.

Epperly ended the day with personal records of 37 completions (37-for-50 for 321 yards) and six touchdown passes. He was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season and has now accounted for 15 touchdowns in the air while rushing for 11 more. Wilson, for his part, made nine catches for 76 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score.

“They both continue to work hard and lead the team,” said Surace, reflecting on what Epperly and Wilson have meant to the Tigers this year.

“They are cool, they don’t flinch. Quinn made a fumble earlier in the game and came right back on the next drive.”

Epperly helped Princeton jump out to a 13-0 first quarter lead as he hit Connor Kelley with a five-yard touchdown pass on Princeton’s initial possession and then found Des Smith on a six-yard scoring strike later in the quarter.

Harvard battled back in the second quarter as quarterback Connor Hempel hit Ricky Zorn for a 33-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson then forged ahead 14-13 after a 60-yard scoring gallop by Paul Stanton.

Epperly found Kelley on another 5-yard touchdown pass as the Tigers regained the lead at 21-14.

Running back Stanton scored again, this time on a two-yard plunge as Harvard knotted the game at 21-21 in the waning seconds of the first half.

As his players assembled in the locker room for halftime, Surace kept it short and sweet. “I told the guys to leave it all on the field and they did it in bucketfuls,” recalled Surace.

“Our locker room was in a trailer under the stands and when we came out there were parents, friends, and students cheering us, it was a wall of sound. It gave me goose bumps.”

Riding that emotion, Princeton scored on its first possession of the second half as Epperly hit Matt Costello for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 28-21. Harvard responded with a 23-yard scoring strike from Hempel to Tyler Ott and the teams headed into the fourth quarter knotted at 28-28.

The Tigers regained the lead as Epperly hit Seth DeValve with a touchdown pass to make it 35-28. Capitalizing on a Princeton fumble which gave it the ball at the Tiger 19, Harvard tied the game at 35-35 with 2:50 left in regulation on another Hempel scoring strike to Ott.

The contest headed into overtime and Harvard executed well on the first possession as Hempel found Ott in the end zone to go ahead 42-35. With Wilson scoring on a nine-yard reverse aided by a big block from Epperly, the Tigers evened the contest at 42-42

The teams traded field goals on their next two possessions to make a 45-45 game. Making a fine defensive stand, Princeton held Harvard to another field goal and took over trailing 48-45.  Epperly hit Costello with an 18-yard pass to get the ball to the Harvard 6. Two plays later, he lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone which Wilson snared to clinch the win and end the 3 hour, 59 minute saga.

With Princeton hosting Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) and its record-setting quarterback Jeff Mathews on November 2, Surace is hoping that his team can build on the dramatic win over Harvard unlike last year when the Tigers fell 37-35 to the Big Red.

“We didn’t let down last year, they just beat us,” maintained Surace, reflecting on the game which saw Mathews pass for 525 yards.

“We have to execute against a quarterback of that caliber. They have 25 guys returning with starting experience. They nearly beat Harvard (a 34-24 loss on October 12). There is such parity in the league. You take 200 plays in a game and flip three and things would be different. We have to be more exact.”

In Surace’s view, the character his team has developed in going through the ups and downs over the last three seasons could make the difference.

“I told them I am proud; they are such a tough group,” said Surace, whose team is tied for first in the Ivy standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy).

“I have been using a saying I got from Jason Garrett’s [former Tiger quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys head coach] camp this summer and that is ‘hold the rope.’ If a call doesn’t go your way or there is a fumble, you don’t give up; you just keep playing.”

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tyler Maugeri, right, battles a Dartmouth player in a game last winter. On Friday, junior forward Maugeri helped Princeton edge Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener in the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark. A day later, Maugeri added a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to defending NCAA champion Yale. The Tigers are next in action when they play at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tyler Maugeri, right, battles a Dartmouth player in a game last winter. On Friday, junior forward Maugeri helped Princeton edge Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener in the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark. A day later, Maugeri added a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to defending NCAA champion Yale. The Tigers are next in action when they play at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey deadlocked 2-2 with Dartmouth in overtime last Friday in the season opener, Tiger forward Tucker Brockett found the puck on his stick in the crease.

Taking advantage his scoring chance, junior Brockett rifled the puck into the net to give Princeton a 3-2 victory and tally his first career goal.

“It was Tucker’s first goal but if you saw the goal you would never know it,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier.

“He did a good job of getting his hands free and showed tremendous poise putting it on the top shelf. It was a goal scorer’s goal.”

The Tigers showed poise throughout the weekend as they hosted the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark, following the win over Dartmouth with a tough 3-2 loss to defending national champion Yale.

“We were playing good systematic hockey for the first weekend,” said Prier. “The resilience is good. We are playing shift to shift, that is the sign of a veteran team. It is a game of momentum and the key is how you react when you don’t have the momentum. We are showing more poise when the other team is on the power play or gets a goal.”

In the win over Dartmouth, Princeton seized the momentum, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by senior captain Jack Berger and freshman Ben Foster.

“Berger’s goal was huge for us; it was a power play goal,” said Prier. “The special teams were good all weekend, we were 5-for-5 on the kill and the PP was 38 percent and we can clean up things even more.”

More importantly, Prier liked how his team responded when Dartmouth scored two third period goals to force overtime.

“I think the advantage of being a veteran team and having gone through the ups and downs is just that,” asserted Prier, whose roster includes nine seniors.

“They had an unflappable mindset, it is what it is. It is bonus hockey and it is still our game. We scored early in OT.”

While Princeton fell 3-2 to Yale on Saturday, Prier liked the mentality exhibited by his players.

“We are breaking down the film and we played really well,” said Prier, who got goals from Tyler Maugeri and Andrew Ammon in the setback. “Yale had only three odd-man rushes and scored on two of them. They have a bit of a swagger. We played desperate in the third period when we needed to. We are resilient.”

Senior goalie Sean Bonar displayed some resilience over the weekend, making 38 saves in the win over Dartmouth and recording 27 saves in the loss to Yale.

“I was really happy with Bonar; he was unflappable,” said Prier of Bonar, who has a save percentage of .929 on the season.

”When your goalie is playing loose and controlling his rebounds, that goes a long way in making the whole team feel loose. Sean has matured tremendously.”

“There were flashes from everyone, everyone was trying to make plays,” said Prier.

“We didn’t play nervous. We didn’t dump the puck and when we had time, we handled it well. We need to play quicker out of our zone when we have possession of the puck.”

Princeton will be looking to make some big plays this weekend as it heads north for games at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later.

“Every weekend is tough,” said Prier. “You look at the results from last weekend and hands down, we have the best league in the country. Cornell is really strong, they swept Nebraska-Omaha last weekend and they will be flying. We need to put pressure on them and really go after them.”

OPENING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Denna Laing looks for the puck in a game last season. Last Friday, senior captain and forward Laing tallied a goal as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers, who fell 4-0 at Harvard on Saturday, host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Denna Laing looks for the puck in a game last season. Last Friday, senior captain and forward Laing tallied a goal as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers, who fell 4-0 at Harvard on Saturday, host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the opening weekend of the season, Jeff Kampersal believed that the arrival of seven freshmen to the program would make a difference for his Princeton University women’s ice hockey team.

The new faces didn’t waste any time making an impact as the Tigers played at Dartmouth last Friday in the first game of the 2013-14 campaign.

Freshman Cassidy Tucker notched Princeton’s first goal of the season late in the first period and then classmate Hilary Lloyd tallied the game-winner early in the third period as Princeton skated to a 3-2 victory.

“Cassidy’s goal got us going,” said Princeton head coach Kampersal, who also got a goal from senior captain Denna Laing in the win.

“She stripped a Dartmouth player of the puck when we were shorthanded and then got a 1-on-0 and roofed it. Jaimie MacDonell made a nice play on the wall and got the puck to Gabie Figueroa who found Lloyd on a back door.”

Kampersal liked the way his team battled collectively as it fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

“We were a little nervous in the first five minutes against Dartmouth but we pulled it together and played,” said Kampersal. “We were down a goal twice and we came back.”

A day later, the Tigers came out firing at Harvard, outshooting the 7th-ranked Crimson 44-30. But Harvard’s excellences on special teams, going 3-for-4 on the power play, combined with some stellar goaltending by Emerance Maschmeyer resulted in a 4-0 triumph for the Crimson.

“The girls were pumped up by the win over Dartmouth and played really well against Harvard in the 5-on-5,” said Kampersal. “They got some power play goals, a couple that were a little flukey. We had a lot of quality chances, we just couldn’t put any away.”

In Kampersal’s view, his squad produced a quality effort in its first weekend of action. “We had a lot of positives from the way we played,” said Kampersal.

“We learned where we are; it was good to play two Ivy League teams who were in the same position. I think just the fact we could roll lines and show our depth and conditioning made me happy.”

The Tigers will need to utilize that depth when they host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later.

“Cornell lost two big defensemen to graduation and another player to the Olympics but their cupboard is still loaded,” said Kampersal.

“They are one of the best teams in the country, for sure. We have played them tough the last few times we have seen them so maybe this is the year we can break through. Colgate will be neck and neck with us all season so that is a very important game.”

Noting that his players will be getting some extra ice time this week since Princeton is on fall break, Kampersal is looking to fine-tune things.

“We need to work on special teams and conditioning,” said Kampersal. “We did have some power play chances and we didn’t put any away. It wasn’t from lack of effort, we had some shots.”

DOUBLE THREAT: Whitney Hayes heads to goal during his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. Hayes, a 2007 Princeton alum, was a hometown hero before heading across town for college, starring at lacrosse and soccer for Princeton High as he produced one of the most decorated two-sports careers in school history. This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the PHS Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

DOUBLE THREAT: Whitney Hayes heads to goal during his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. Hayes, a 2007 Princeton alum, was a hometown hero before heading across town for college, starring at lacrosse and soccer for Princeton High as he produced one of the most decorated two-sports careers in school history. This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the PHS Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Whitney Hayes focused on soccer as a grade schooler but he found a new sporting love by middle school.

“I played soccer a lot as a kid,” said Hayes. “In seventh grade I stopped playing travel soccer and switched to the lacrosse side, playing on select teams.”

Entering Princeton High in 1998, Hayes decided not to put all of his eggs in one basket, playing soccer as well as lacrosse. That move paved the way for one of the most decorated two-sports careers in PHS history.

As a soccer player, Hayes scored 26 goals and had 16 assists over his career, getting honored as a two-time All-State and three-time All-CVC performer.

On the lacrosse field, Hayes set a new standard, scoring a school-record 397 career points on 169 goals and 228 assists. He was a two-time All-American, a three-time All-State performer, and the N.J. Attackman of the Year.

This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the Princeton High Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees.

Joining Hayes in the class will be John Friel ’36,  August Friel ’37, Joseph Friel ’38, Tom Friel ’50, Rich Volz ’67, Craig Rendall ’76, Patricia Dinella McMillan ’82, Lamont Fletcher Jr. ’82, Alec Hoke ’83, coach Frank Francisco, and the 1966 boys’ track and field team.

Hayes, for his part, was surprised to get the call to the PHS Hall of Fame. “I thought it was for a crowning achievement for a person, I thought I was too young to be a part of it,” said Hayes, 30. “It is great to be asked.”

In assessing his PHS career, Hayes acknowledged that he was not a great soccer player.

“I didn’t play varsity until I was a sophomore,” recalled Hayes. “In freshman year, I dressed for a few games at the end and got exposed to it. For me, the challenge was a skill level. I was a much better athlete than a soccer player. I could run with everybody but couldn’t always finish. I had to work harder to make more chances.”

Hayes enjoyed working with PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe. “Wayne was a tremendous coach,” said Hayes, who also relished the chance to play with older brother Dixon in both soccer and lacrosse.

“He was very much a players’ coach. He developed them as people as much as players. He listened to the leadership on the team. It was not just about being a successful team; he made it fun. He adapted strategy to the team that he had.”

In lacrosse, Hayes enjoyed success from the beginning, working his way into the starting lineup as a freshman.

“It was a step up in competition but I have always enjoyed that,” said Hayes. “I wanted to play against the better players. I had played with guys on the weekends and in their yards so I knew them.”

PHS did well against some of the better teams in the state during Hayes’ career. “My sophomore year, we ran the table in the regular season and lost to the eventual champion Delbarton in the playoffs,” said Hayes.

“My next year we beat the No. 1 seed AL Johnson in the tournament and coach [Peter] Stanton broke his hand celebrating.”

Like Sutcliffe, Stanton had a big influence on Hayes. “Coach Stanton was fantastic, he has a strong personality that you can’t help but like,” added Hayes.

“Like Wayne, he was interested in your development as a person. If you scored 10 goals but were a jerk to your teammates, the latter was something that he would focus on as being more important. He was a great mentor.”

Stanton, for his part, lauds Hayes’ special on-field focus. “Whit has remarkable awareness,” said Stanton. “Lacrosse is a one-on-one game but on the offensive side it is six guys against seven guys and he had a sense of playing the game within the game.”

Hayes’ game sense resulted in an understated style. “He made the game look so easy; he would get five goals and it would look so smooth and easy,” said Stanton of the 5’10, 175-pound Hayes.

“He had the gifts of perception, timing, and awareness. Those are skills that are virtually impossible to teach. They are innate gifts. He made his teammates better.”

In developing his gifts, Hayes utilized a fierce competitiveness. “He was exceptionally tough and I know how hard he worked at it,” said Stanton. “I saw him do the most amazing things on our Saturday practices when he was going full speed and he didn’t have to do that as our best player.”

That work paid off as Hayes went on to star for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, helping the Tigers reach the NCAA Final 4 in 2004 and tallying 69 points on 32 goals and 37 assists in his Tiger career.

“It was great to be home for college, that enabled people I knew to see me,” said Hayes, who graduated from Princeton in 2007 with a degree in politics and a finance certificate.

“My parents came to every game. I got to play with both of my brothers [Dixon and younger brother Sam]. I was sure I would have at least three fans at the home games with my parents and Peter. I grew up watching games on the soccer and lacrosse fields at Princeton and I thought that was a higher level so it was great to play on those fields in college.”

Stanton certainly enjoyed watching his former star excel at the college level. “It’s funny, Bill Tierney [former Princeton University coach] said Whitney was one of the biggest surprises he had in his career,” said Stanton.

“He was unheralded as a recruit. I was really happy to see him get the chance to play at Princeton. I know it was a dream come true for him.”

It is no surprise to Stanton that Hayes is achieving another dream this Saturday with the Hall of Fame honor.

“The Hall of Fame is for a select few; from the years I coached, he is the first person I would put in,” said Stanton.

“He was outstanding for four years. He did some awesome things. He still holds the school career record for points. When he graduated, he held New Jersey records for career assists and assists in a season.”

For Hayes, it is an awesome feeling to be singled out as a Hall of Famer. “There have been a lot of tremendous people who have gone through Princeton High and to be considered along with them is an honor,” said Hayes.

As Hayes reflects on going through PHS, he considers the bonds he made with his peers to be one of the lasting benefits of his high school experience. “I got to know a lot of great people; I developed friendships that I have to this day,” said Hayes, who currently works as an investment baker in New York City for UBS.

“Some of my best friends in the world are the guys I went with to Princeton High. I have been in their weddings and I still see them. It is something that lasts a lifetime.”

And having produced a once in a lifetime PHS career, it is fitting that Hayes is being recognized this Saturday as one of the best athletes in school history.

October 23, 2013
CAPTAIN JACK: Princeton University men’s hockey star Jack Berger goes after the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Berger will be counted on for production and leadership as the Tigers look to improve on the 10-16-5 record they posted last season. Princeton opens up its 2013-14 campaign by hosting the Liberty 2013 Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark where the Tigers will play Dartmouth on October 25 and Yale the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAPTAIN JACK: Princeton University men’s hockey star Jack Berger goes after the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Berger will be counted on for production and leadership as the Tigers look to improve on the 10-16-5 record they posted last season. Princeton opens up its 2013-14 campaign by hosting the Liberty 2013 Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark where the Tigers will play Dartmouth on October 25 and Yale the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the 2013-14 campaign, the Princeton University men’s hockey team is in search of consistency.

Last winter, the Tigers went 10-16-5 overall, showing flashes of good play but then taking steps backward. In regular season action, the Tigers swept Cornell, Harvard and Cornell but, in turn, were swept by NCAA champion Yale, Quinnipiac, and Clarkson. Princeton ended the season on a down note, losing 2-0 to Cornell at Baker Rink in a best-of-three opening round series in the ECAC Hockey playoffs.

As Princeton head coach Bob Prier looks forward to his third season at the helm of the Tigers, he wants his players to be sharper on a daily basis.

“It comes down to routine and habits,” said Prier, whose team opens the season by hosting the Liberty 2013 Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark where the Tigers will play Dartmouth on October 25 and Yale the next day. “We need to practice with a purpose and when we are starting to divert, get back to what we need to do.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers need to enjoy making that effort. “We are fortunate to be part of this process,” said Prier. “We have to have an attitude of gratitude.”

Prier certainly feels thankful to nine seniors on his roster. “We need to use experience to our advantage,” said Prier, whose team posted 6-3 and 4-3 wins over Ryerson University in exhibition games last weekend at Baker Rink.

“They have been here for a while, they have seen almost everything. They have come back from three goals down to win and they have seen other teams do that to us. They know how to hang on and win games. They know that they need to stick to the process.”

There is plenty of experience at forward where Princeton welcomes back leading scorer, senior Andrew Calof (14 goals and 24 assists in 2012-13) along with senior captain Jack Berger (3 goals and 9 assists), senior Andrew Ammon (8 goals and 8 assists), junior Tyler Maugeri (9 goals and 14 assists), sophomore Mike Ambrosia (5 goals and 6 assists) and junior Tucker Brockett.

“Calof has got to be the best player on the ice every night for either team,” asserted Prier.

“He has the ability to do that. When you have the best player, that puts you in a good position. Berger had a lot of weight on his shoulders as a junior and being the team leader. He has had that experience and he knows that he can’t put too much pressure on himself. He was making plays this weekend. He looked more comfortable with the puck and was playing more relaxed. Ambrosia is far more healthier this year. Maugeri has another year under his belt. Ammon works hard all the time, he is learning to pull up some of the time. Tucker played well over the weekend.”

A pair of freshmen, Ben Foster and Ryan Siiro, are already pulling their weight.

“Foster and Siiro are older kids who were seasoned in junior hockey,” said Prier.

“Ryan does a good job of protecting the puck and Ben is one of those really good all around players. He can be physical, but he can also skate and shoot.”

The Tigers figure to boast a well-rounded unit of defensemen, led by junior Andrew Ave, senior Jeremy Goodwin, together with freshmen Quin Pompi and Marlon Sabo.

“Ave looked really good over the weekend, he is playing with more jump,” said Prier, who will also use senior Kevin Ross, junior Tom Kroshus, sophomore Kevin Liss, freshman Tommy Davis, and freshman Hayden Anderson on defense.

“Goodwin had a strong weekend, he was really physical. Pompi did well, he is real mobile and really responsible with the puck. Sabo is a big body and we need those.”

At goalie, Princeton is hoping for strong play from senior Sean Bonar and freshman Colton Phinney.

“We hope Sean has a big year, he was worked on things that he needed to improve on,” said Prier of Bonar, whose posted a 3.24 goals against average and a save percentage of .901 last winter as he went 2-5-1.

“He is playing with poise and is doing better controlling rebounds. He wants to win, he wants to do well. Colton had a strong game on Saturday. He has a good compete level, he never gives up on the puck. Once he adjusts to the speed of the shots, he is going to be fine. We think both goalies can be really good. We are going to start Sean and see how he does.”

The Tigers are fired up to be starting their season at the 17,625-seat Prudential Center, the home of the New Jersey Devils affectionately known as “The Rock.”

“We are really lucky to be playing at a venue like the Rock,” said Prier, noting that the games don’t count towards the league standings and a champion of the event will be determined based on wins and goal tiebreakers.

“It is close to home and should be an exciting tournament. Dartmouth is returning most of their guys, so they shouldn’t be different from last year. They are big and skilled. It is nice to play a defending national champion like Yale so early in the season.”

The weekend will give the Tigers a chance to start developing the consistency they will need to be a force in the ECACH.

“Our league is so strong, every night is a battle,” asserted Prier. “We are a better team at this point than we were last year.”

ROMAN CHARIOT: Princeton University football star Roman Wilson races upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Brown, senior receiver Wilson made 6 catches for 63 yards to help Princeton overcome a 17-0 first half deficit on the way to to a 39-17 win. Princeton, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, heads back to New England this weekend for a critical league clash as it plays at Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on Saturday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROMAN CHARIOT: Princeton University football star Roman Wilson races upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Brown, senior receiver Wilson made 6 catches for 63 yards to help Princeton overcome a 17-0 first half deficit on the way to to a 39-17 win. Princeton, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, heads back to New England this weekend for a critical league clash as it plays at Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team fell behind 17-0 at Brown in the first half last Saturday evening, some of its veteran players could have started feeling an uncomfortable sense of deja vu.

After all, two years ago, Princeton dug an early 17-0 hole at Brown on the way to a discouraging 34-0 whipping at the hands of the Bears.

But as Princeton head coach Bob Surace surveyed the scene, he didn’t get any sense that history was about to repeat itself.

“I looked at the guys on the sideline and they weren’t dismayed or shocked or awed,” said Surace. “I felt confident that we could get things together. I was thinking we have to get some things fixed and get back to playing good football.”

Surace’s confidence was increased when junior quarterback Quinn Epperly led the Tigers on a 15-play, 88-yard scoring march that culminated with an 8-yard touchdown run by Brian Mills with 2:05 left in the second quarter as the Tigers narrowed the gap to 17-6 at halftime.

In the dressing room, Surace reinforced his view that the Tigers were very much in the ballgame.

“At half, I went in and grabbed the guys and said we can’t score 20 points on one play, it is one play at a time,” recalled Surace. “I said keep executing and keep fighting and we will be OK.”

After the break, Princeton played a lot better than OK as it reeled off 33 unanswered points on the way to a 39-17 victory.

“The second half was about as well-played as it could be for us,” said Surace, whose team improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League.

“We came out and got a score and we made one play after another. I think there were about 20 plays in a row that were executed well. On defense, we got some big three-and-outs. We had some great tackling. By the end of the third and into the fourth, we were able show depth and use our strength and conditioning.”

Epperly is showing that he may be the best player in the Ivy League as rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 233 yards in the win over the Bears. The  6’1, 220-pound native of Knoxville, Tenn., who has now rushed for 11 touchdowns and thrown for nine on the fall, was named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks.

“He is playing at a high level,” said Surace of Epperly, who ran for all three of his touchdowns in the second half, highlighted by a scintillating 39-yard scoring gallop early in the fourth quarter.

“His game management and decision-making have been great. He runs the play that is called. He is so big and strong that he is a force when he runs the ball up the middle. But you don’t realize how fast he is in the open field, he is very elusive.”

While some big plays went against Princeton in the first half as John Spooney sprinted 71 yards for a touchdown and Michael Walsh returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a score, Surace looked to his veterans to right the ship.

“We have a really good group of leaders,” asserted Surace. “Last year Mike Catapano and Andrew Starks were such great leaders. When people asked me who were going to be the leaders this year, I said ‘who isn’t a leader?’ We have such a good group of guys, they have been through ups and downs. They held steady and stuck together on Saturday.”

The Tigers will need that leadership this weekend as the team heads back to New England for a battle of Ivy leaders as Princeton plays at Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) in a critical game this Saturday with Penn the other league frontrunner at 3-2 overall and 2-0 Ivy.

In Surace’s view, Harvard poses a formidable obstacle for the Tigers in their drive for an Ivy crown.

“They haven’t lost and there is a reason why,” said Surace, noting that the Crimson have won 15 straight home contests.

“You look at the statistics and they are great. When you watch them on film, they live up to the statistics. They have two quarterbacks and one is completing about 68 percent of his passes [Connor Hempel] and the other is completing 70 percent [Michael Pruneau].  Their tailback [Paul Stanton] is tremendously explosive and they are balanced at receiver. They have some big tight ends and their slot receivers are very good. They have a very good offensive line. On defense, they are in attack mode. They have forced 19 turnovers and have made 20 sacks. Zach Hodges reminds me of Javon Kearse [former NFL star], he is so long and so athletic; he is tough to block.”

In order for Princeton to prevail, the Tigers will have to be mentally tough. “They are going to make plays and we can’t make silly turnovers to help them,” said Surace, whose team stunned Harvard last year in a game for the ages, rallying from a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 39-34 victory.

“We have to do a good job of possessing the ball and make big plays when we have a shot. We have such high respect for them. We have to be focused for four quarters and 60 minutes. We have to make sure that we are exact in our alignments and assignments. We have to be focused on detail.”

DOWN SHIFT: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Melissa Downey dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last week, junior forward Downey scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Lehigh and then added another tally in a 3-3 tie with Columbia last Saturday. Princeton, now 5-4-4 overall and 0-3-1 Ivy League, plays at Harvard (8-3-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on October 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOWN SHIFT: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Melissa Downey dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last week, junior forward Downey scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Lehigh and then added another tally in a 3-3 tie with Columbia last Saturday. Princeton, now 5-4-4 overall and 0-3-1 Ivy League, plays at Harvard (8-3-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on October 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After missing most of her 2012 season with the Princeton University women’s soccer due to a knee injury, Melissa Downey has been out of sorts this fall.

Coming into last Wednesday’s game against visiting Lehigh, Downey hadn’t tallied a goal, mirroring a team-wide slump, as the Tigers were scoreless in their first three games of October.

Falling behind Lehigh 1-0 early in the second half, Princeton broke the ice as Jessica Haley scored with 33:12 left in regulation.

Then some 30 minutes later, Downey came through in the clutch, blasting home a rebound off a Tyler Lussi shot to provide the margin of victory as Princeton prevailed 2-1.

Downey was in the right place at the right time in finding the back of the net.

“It is very slick and the keeper has been coughing it up all night,” said Downey.

“It is something we talked about at halftime, to just keep following and following. We wanted to put a lot of pressure on them to make mistakes. I didn’t even think about it. I just reacted; it still hasn’t hit me.”

For Downey, her first goal was worth waiting for. “Better late than never; it has been a tough season personally coming back from having almost a year off,” said Downey, who scored a second goal on Saturday as Princeton tied Columbia 3-3 to move to 5-4-4 overall and 0-3-1 Ivy League. “Finding myself has been elusive; that felt really good.”

It was good for Princeton’s confidence to battle back from the Lehigh goal as it had gone 0-3-1 in its last four games coming into the contest.

“I am really happy with how we responded, we didn’t let down,” said Downey, a native of McLean, Va. who now has four goals and seven assists in her Princeton career.

“Of course, that was a tough counter, no one likes giving up that kind of goal but we kept creating tons of chances and I am proud of the fact that no one let down.”

The goal by Haley proved to be a turning point for the Tigers. “It definitely lifted us; it definitely gave us some hope,” said Downey. “I am glad we got that.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford was proud to see Downey experience her moment of glory.

“I am happy for her because she has been so frustrated in terms of trying to get her game back,” said Shackford. “She was dangerous tonight so that was nice.”

Junior Haley looked dangerous all night around the box. “What a beautiful goal from Jess Haley,” said Shackford. “Jess played well tonight, she has played well the last few games actually.”

Shackford sees the win as a potential turning point for Princeton. “I hope it gives us a little confidence going forward,” said Shackford, whose team is next in action when it plays at Ivy frontrunner Harvard (8-3-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on October 26. “You play spoiler and see what happens.”

Downey, for her part, believes the Tigers can do well going forward. “I think we are looking to finish really strong, we are not looking to slow down,” said Downey.

“The Ivy League is so even this year, people are winning we don’t expect to. It could be that a lot of teams drop games so you never know. You can never stop playing in the Ivy League, even if there is a clear better or worse team. I am just really happy that we got this win; we needed this lift.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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