November 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOUR-SIGHT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Niveen Rasheed heads up the court in action last season. Senior forward Rasheed, the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2011-12, will be looking to end her stellar career by leading Princeton to a fourth straight league title. The Tigers tip off the upcoming season when they play at St. Joseph’s on November 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood were two of the key building blocks for a Princeton University women’s basketball program that has dominated the Ivy League over the last three winters.

The 6’3 Allgood controlled the paint, scoring 1,177 points and grabbing 802 rebounds in her career while the rangy 6’0 Edwards tallied 1,319 points and 152 three-pointers as the Tigers won three straight league titles, going 41-1 in Ivy play over that span.

The exit of the two stars to graduation this past June would seem to signal a rebuilding season for the Tigers, whose 2011-12 campaign ended with a tough 67-64 loss to Kansas State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

But with the return of senior forward Niveen Rasheed, last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year who has 1,134 career points, and classmate Lauren Polansky, the two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, Princeton is in good shape to make a run for a fourth straight league crown.

Coming off a season that saw the Tigers go 24-5 overall and 14-0 Ivy, becoming the first league team to be ranked in the Top 25 nationally at No. 24, Princeton was recently picked first in the 2012-13 Ivy Preseason Media Poll.

While Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is proud to have transformed her program into a force, she isn’t focusing on preseason accolades as she looks ahead to opening the 2012-13 season with a game at St. Joseph’s on November 11.

“As is always the case, it doesn’t matter where you start in the poll, it matters where you end up,” said Banghart, who is bringing a 95-50 overall record into her sixth year at the helm, having gone 74-13 the last three seasons.

“That said, I’m really proud of this Tiger program as we’ve worked tirelessly in the offseason and as a unit to continually earn the target on our back. This group has both pride and humility. We appreciate the respect, but we are driven by how far we still have to go to reach our lofty goals. It’s one day at a time for this team.”

Senior co-captain Rasheed, a 6’0 native of Danville, Calif., has proven to be one of the most driven players in Ivy history, starting from the moment she took the court for Princeton in 2009. Even though she was coming off a sophomore season  that ended early due to an ACL injury, Rasheed was at full speed from the opening tip last winter, averaging 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

Her classmate and co-captain Polansky has proven to be one of the most valuable point guards in recent Ivy history. The 5’8 Polansky, a resident of Mill Valley, Calif., has piled up 227 assists, 299 rebounds, and 161 steals in her Tiger career.

The Tigers also welcome back 6‘0 senior starter Kate Miller (5.9 points, 3.2 rebounds a game in 2011-12) and key reserves, 5’11 junior Nicole Hung (7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) and 6‘3 senior Megan Bowen (6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds).

The freshman class should give the Tigers depth and height with the quintet of Taylor Williams (6’3), Alex Wheatley (6’2), Annie Tarakchian (6’0), Michelle Miller (5’10), and Amanda Bernsten (5’8).

Banghart won’t have to wait long to see if the team has what it takes to compete for its lofty goals as it faces NCAA tournament teams Marist, Rutgers, and UCLA in November action.

TITLE DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer drives to the hoop in a game last winter. Senior standout Hummer, who passed the 1,000-point mark last season, will be looking to end his stellar career on a high note as the Tigers have their sights set on retaining the Ivy League crown. Princeton tips off its 2012-13 season by playing at Buffalo on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mitch Henderson isn’t coy in setting forth what he hopes to see from his Princeton University men’s basketball team this winter.

“The expectation is that we are supposed to win the league,” said Princeton head coach Henderson, who guided the Tigers to a 20-12 overall record and 10-4 in Ivy League play last winter in his debut season as the team finished third in the league and went on to make the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational.

“Every single year, we want to make sure that we are contending for the title. I think that the group that you are seeing right now really wants that shot. They know that it is about hard work on the floor and getting better so we define ourselves by those things everyday. Are we getting better, are we improving, are we making each other better, are we unselfish. Those guys are really taking those qualities to heart.”

With Princeton slated to tip off the 2012-13 season by playing at Buffalo on November 10, the Tigers are depending on getting some quality work from their trio of seniors, Ian Hummer (16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 2011-12), Brendan Connolly (5.7 points, 3.6 rebounds), and Mack Darrow (7.0 points, 3.6 rebounds).

“I know that Ian gets a lot of attention but he has made strides,” said Henderson of the 6’7, 225-pound Hummer, a two-time All-Ivy performer who comes into the season with 1,170 career points.

“He has really taken a role as a leader and he put in time in the weight room. He looks like he is ready to go; the same thing with Brendan Connolly. The seniors are doing what they are supposed to do, which is leading by example.”

The Tigers, who were chosen No. 1 in the 2012-13 Ivy Preseason Media Poll and got in some extra work this summer during a 10-day journey to Spain where they played four games against professional teams, are expecting junior forward Will Barrett to assume a larger role.

“Will wasn’t with us last year,” said Henderson of the 6’8, 197-pound Barrett. “He spent a year off working on and off the floor. He really made a lot of improvements. In Spain, he was a huge addition for us; he led us in rebounding. I think Will has made huge strides personally, both on and off the floor.”

Junior guard T.J. Bray, who made big strides last year when he averaged 7.2 points a game and had a team-high 119 assists, is currently bouncing back from injury.

“T.J. is going to be ready to go, we have been working him back into the live stuff,” said Henderson.

“He will be fine; like any really competitive guy, he is just chomping at the bit here to get going but we have got some time. I think you will see him early and we are building towards him being full speed by mid-November.”

As Bray gets up to speed, Henderson is trying some different options at guard as the Tigers look to fill the void left by the graduated Douglas Davis, the former Hun School star who ended his Princeton career with 1,550 points, the second most in program history.

“I like what we are seeing out of Chris Clement (0.5 points and 0.5 rebounds last year) and Denton Koon (5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds),” asserted Henderson.

“We are really asking those two guys to do something that is a little unique; they are both playing in the backcourt for the first time.”

In Henderson’s view, his trio of freshmen, 6‘3 guard Mike Washington, Jr., 6’ 8 forward Hans Brase, and 7’1 center Edo Lawrence, could do some good things this winter.

“Mike is a shooter; he is athletic and he is a bigger guard,” said Henderson. “He has a long way to go in understanding how hard you have you play in college. I really like where Mike is at the moment. I feel comfortable with the guys that are in front of him too so I think Mike is going to have his work cut out for him but he is ready for that challenge. Hans Brase is really playing well. I think Hans is going to help us immediately, especially on the boards. Edo Lawrence is playing behind two senior centers and a sophomore center but again he is another guy who has really worked hard on just improving his habits here. I really like the look of the class as it adds to the rest of the group.”

The Tigers will get exposed to some different looks in a non-conference slate that includes such formidable foes as Rutgers, Syracuse, Kent State, Drexel, Rider, and Bucknell.

“I think it is a very challenging schedule for us; each of those teams are a little bit different,” said Henderson.

“We have teams that are perimeter-oriented and then teams who have a really good big guy like Bucknell. It is a challenge and that’s what we want. We want to be playing our best basketball in January.”

While losing twice in the season-opening Ivy Shootout didn’t hurt the Princeton University men’s hockey team as the games didn’t count in the ECAC Hockey standings, it gave the Tigers a taste of what they will be facing this winter.

“It is an indicator of how the league is going to be this year,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier.

“Game in, game out, it is going to be a dogfight. There is a lot of parity and little margin for error.”

In falling 2-1 to host Brown on October 26 and 3-2 to Yale a day later in the event, Princeton made some key errors.

“Both games were pretty similar,” recalled Prier. “We made some poor decisions on penalties. We had some lapses and our foes cashed in on some opportunities.”

The Tigers did see Tyler Maugeri cash in as the sophomore forward notched a goal in each game.

“Tyler had a couple of goals; it is nice to see that,” said Prier, who also got a goal from Andrew Calof in the defeat to Yale. “We know guys like Calof and [Jack] Berger are going to score; it is good to see
others contributing. We know we have the weapons up front; we have a nucleus of guys who can put it in.”

Prier liked the work he got from his guys along the blue line and from senior goalie Mike Condon.

“We limited opportunities defensively better than we did last year so that was encouraging,” added Prier.

“Mike did what he had to. He had a .926 save percentage in the first game; you are going to come out with a win most of the time with that save percentage. I was pleased with how he played.”

The Tigers were hoping to have the opportunity to get some extra work in this week during fall break but Hurricane Sandy changed those plans.

“Originally we had planned for this to be a big week for work,” said Prier, whose team didn’t have any games scheduled last weekend.

“We had a lot of bumps and bruises so we let the guys get away and go home and heal up. We will come in on Saturday and Sunday ready to go and work hard.”

With Princeton opening ECACH play this weekend by hosting fourth-ranked Cornell (3-0-1 overall, 1-0-1 ECACH) on November 9 and Colgate (4-4-1 overall, 0-1-1 ECACH) the next day, Prier knows his team faces some hard challenges.

“The season is short so this is important; we definitely need to start well in the league,” said Prier.

“We are looking at two tough league opponents just like last weekend. We have learned from penalties and lapses in mental focus. We have some positives to build on; we had the puck a lot.”

In Prier’s view, doing more with that puck possession is critical as the Tigers look to produce a positive start in league play.

“We have to do better in front of the goal,” noted Prier. “We are going to work on the power play quite a bit; we have to make that a threat. With the parity in the league, special teams can make the difference. You look at the box scores and you see where the team that went 2-of-5 on the power play was the team that came out on top. We have the clientele to have a strong power play and hopefully we can do that.”

November 6, 2012

SEEING RED: Princeton University sophomore quarterback Connor Michelson makes a handoff in recent action. Last Saturday, Michelson had a career day at Cornell, hitting on 29-of-35 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown. Michelson’s heroics weren’t enough, though, as Princeton fell 37-35 to the Big Red. The defeat left the Tigers at 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Ivy play, dropping them into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Harvard (5-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy) and Penn (3-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy). Princeton hosts Penn this Saturday.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of the Princeton University football team’s miraculous fourth quarter comeback in its recent win over Harvard, Bob Surace sounded a note of caution.

As he reflected on the rally which saw the Tigers overcome a 34-10 deficit to pull out a 39-34 win in the October 20 contest, Princeton head coach Surace said that his squad needed to play error-free football and be extra sharp on the fundamentals in order to stay atop the Ivy League race.

Last Saturday at Cornell, the Tigers failed to follow that blueprint by making four turnovers and ended up paying the price as they fell 37-35 to the Big Red before a crowd of 4,420 at Schoellkopf Field.

The defeat left Princeton at 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Ivy play, dropping it into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Harvard (5-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy) and Penn (3-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy).

While Surace was pleased with the intensity his players showed, he acknowledged that it wasn’t their sharpest performance.

“Our effort was very good throughout the game,” said Surace. “The league is pretty balanced and you see these type of games every week. It comes down to small details and they were a little better on the small details and that haunted us. We have to be a touch cleaner. We executed extremely well on 75 of 84 plays.”

The Cornell passing attack, on the other hand, executed well all day long as quarterback Jeff Mathews hit on 35-of-51 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns with Grant Gellatly making 12 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown and Luke Tasker contributing 10 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

“For the second week in a row, we faced a terrific QB combined with some great receivers,” said Surace, whose team battled Harvard quarterback Colton Chapple and tight end Kyle Juszczyk a week earlier.

“We knew they had that ability. The QB is in the top 5 in passing in the nation and their back-up threw for 500 yards in a game when he had to start. We blitzed, we played different formations, we tried to give Mathews different looks but he has started 26 games and he has seen everything. He is like an early version of Peyton Manning and it is hard to beat him on different looks.”

Early on, it didn’t look like the game was going to become a wild shootout, with neither team scoring in the first quarter.

The fireworks started in the second quarter when Roman Wilson scored on a three-yard run as Princeton took a 7-0 lead with 11:19 left in the first half to culminate an 11-play, 92-yard scoring march.

Mathews, though, started to find the range at that point. The junior hit Tasker for a 54-yard touchdown pass to make it a 7-7- game. Minutes later, he found Gellatly for a 76-yard scoring strike as the Big Red forged ahead 14-7.

The Tigers answered back with a 75-yard drive that ended with quarterback Quinn Epperley running two yards for a touchdown as Princeton knotted the game at 14-14 heading into halftime.

Things really heated up in the third quarter as the teams combined for 34 points in the period. The outburst started when Mathews hit Tasker for an eight-yard touchdown pass to give Cornell a 21-14 lead.

Princeton tied the contest at 21-21 after Epperly ran six yards for his second touchdown of the afternoon.

Mathews then hit Luke Hagy for a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it a 28-21 game with 8:26 left in the quarter. Less than a minute later, the Tigers drew even at 28-28 as Connor Michelson hit Wilson on a 72-yard touchdown pass.

The Big Red got the last points of the quarter as Silas Nacita ran two yards for a touchdown. The kick failed and Cornell led 34-28 as the teams headed into the final 15 minutes of regulation.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Princeton finally regained the lead as Epperly found tight end Mark Hayes for a six-yard TD pass. Nolan Bieck’s kick was good and the Tigers went ahead 35-34.

Princeton stopped Cornell on downs on the next possession and took over on its own 23. The Tigers picked up three first downs as they looked to get an insurance score. But the Big Red made a clutch play on defense, forcing a Dre Nelson fumble and taking possession with 2:57 left in the quarter. The sizzling Mathews hit big passes to Tasker and Gallatly to get Cornell to the Princeton 11. With 50 seconds left, John Wells hit a 23-yard field goal to put Cornell ahead 37-35.

The Tigers made one last gasp but a Michelson pass was intercepted to seal the Cornell win.

In Surace’s view, the combination of big plays from Cornell and the miscues by Princeton led to the Tigers‘ first loss in league play this fall.

“They made some extraordinary plays, the turnovers hurt us,” said Surace. “We started the second half, saying that we needed to be plus two in turnovers and we ended up minus four.”

Princeton quarterback Connor Michelson made his share of extraordinary plays in a losing cause as he had a career game, hitting on 29-of-35 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown.

“Connor threw the ball extremely well; we had three drops but he still29-for-35,” said Surace,

“His accuracy was terrific; his decision-making was great. It was probably the best we have blocked on the line since I have been here; we protected him well and kept him clean.”

As Princeton girds for a pivotal clash with visiting Penn this Saturday, Surace knows his team must block out any bad feelings from the loss on Saturday.

“Everybody gets a little better this time of year,” said Surace. “We can’t mope or let disappointment linger. We need to have the exactness from play to play.”

Princeton will have to play a little better in order to overcome a tough Quaker team that features battle-tested senior quarterback Billy Ragone and a rugged defense.

“It is always a large game, you have to match up physically,” said Surace, reflecting on the series which has seen Penn win the last five meetings.

“They make plays and they are well coached. We have a lot of respect for them. When I came into the league, I looked at programs, there is no honor code, you see things you want to copy. I admire how they operate and how they are fundamentally sound and play the game the right way.”

UP IN THE AIR: Princeton University men’s soccer player ­Cameron Porter (in white) goes to the air to battle a trio of foes for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, the Tigers couldn’t find the back of the net as they fell 1-0 at Cornell. The loss left Princeton at 6-6-2 overall and 2-1-2 Ivy League, trailing Brown (12-1-2 overall, 4-0-1 Ivy), Cornell (13-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy), and Dartmouth (8-6 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in the Ivy title race with two league games remaining. The Tigers are slated to host Penn (2-12 overall, 0-5 Ivy) on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s soccer team prepared for a pivotal Ivy League contest at Cornell, the Tigers faced a series of challenges.

In addition to dealing with the stress of midterm week, Princeton was ailing as it brought a 2-0-2 Ivy record into its clash with a Big Red team that was 3-1 in league action.

“It wasn’t easy, not only with midterms but the guys’ bodies seemed to be hitting a wall,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow.

“It sounded like an infirmary on the trip up and back from Cornell with the guys coughing. Matt Sanner was not able to train after Tuesday because of a toe injury. Joe Saitta was sick and in and out of training. Chris Benedict tweaked his back.”

Shaking off fatigue, illness, and injury, the Tigers battled Cornell tooth and nail. The team were deadlocked in a scoreless tie at halftime and Princeton outshot the Big Red 8-4 in the second half. But Daniel Haber found the back of the net for Cornell early in the second half for the only score of the contest as the Tigers fell 1-0.

“We played well, the first half was even and we had more shots than they did in the second half,” said Barlow.

“They have a really dangerous forward and he got two or three chances and was able to score one. He made the most of his opportunities.”

Princeton, on the other hand, didn’t cash in on its opportunities. “We had a lot of the play in the second half,” said Barlow, whose team is 6-6-2 overall and now trails Brown (12-1-2 overall, 4-0-1 Ivy), Cornell (13-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (8-6 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in the Ivy title race with two league games remaining.

“We had enough chances to score. We just haven’t been sharp in the final third; going back to Adelphi (a 1-0 loss on October 17) and even Harvard (a 2-1 overtime win on October 20) where we pulled the game out on a goal off a long throw.”

The team’s lack of offensive punch has been particularly disappointing given how well Princeton has played defensively.

“The guys on the back line have been terrific,” said Barlow, whose team has a goals against average of 1.15 and had yielded just four goals in its five league contests.

“Mark Linnville is the leader. Billy McGuinness has been so good all year. Seth MacMillan has been solid in goal; Saitta and Benedict are also solid. Last year,  we scored a lot of goals but gave up too many. We wanted to get the back line really secure and we have done that but we are not making that last play in front of the goal.”

With Princeton’s Ivy title hopes hanging by a thread, Barlow is looking for his team to make some big plays as it hosts Penn (2-12 overall, 0-5 Ivy) on November 3 before playing at Yale (4-7-4 overall, 1-2-2 Ivy) on November 10 in the regular season finale.

“We just have to focus on winning our own games,” said Barlow, noting that the Tigers needs to win both of their remaining games and get help in several other league matchups to win the title.

“We are frustrated. We knew that Saturday could be the game that decided the title and we didn’t get it done.”

Jeff Kampersal knew that his Princeton University women’s hockey team was in for some trouble when it took five penalties in the first period last Friday as it hosted Dartmouth.

“We want to pride ourselves on being a disciplined team and we didn’t do a good job of that today,” said Princeton head coach Kampersal.

“Dartmouth’s power play is potent, to say the least, they are a very good group. They are well coached and to give them five power plays in the first period is ridiculous.”

The Tigers weathered the storm, though, surrendering only one goal in the first period. After giving up an even strength goal to fall behind 2-0 midway through the second period, Princeton got a goal from senior Alex Kinney to halve Dartmouth’s lead. But the Big Green cashed in on a power play late in the period to regain their two-goal lead on the way to a 3-1 victory.

Kampersal did see some positive signs when his squad wasn’t killing penalties.

“I thought 5-on-5, we did a good job,” said Kampersal. “We played a sound, solid game.”

Princeton got a solid game in the loss from gritty senior forward and assistant captain Kelly Cooke.

“I thought Cookie worked real hard; she was all over today,” said Kampersal of Cooke, who scored Princeton’s lone goal on Saturday as the Tigers suffered a dispiriting 9-1 loss to Harvard.

“She had a lot of energy; she was good on the penalty kill. She had a nice 2-on-1 on the kill. I thought she was good at both ends of the rink.”

With Princeton, now 2-2 overall and 0-2 in ECAC Hockey action, the Tigers will have to be a lot better at both ends of the rink next weekend as they play at second-ranked Cornell (4-1 overall, 2-0 ECACH) on November 2 and at Colgate (2-6 overall, 0-2 ECACH) on November 3.

“It doesn’t take a perfect game, it takes a smart, disciplined effort,” said Kampersal.

“Our goal is to stay under four penalties each game. When we stay under four penalties, get a certain percentage on the power play, and play good, tough defense, we have a good chance of winning.”

October 24, 2012

ROMAN GLADIATOR: Princeton University junior receiver Roman Wilson heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Harvard, Wilson caught the game-winning 36-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left as Princeton overcame a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 39-34 win. In so doing, the Tigers not only snapped No. 22 Harvard’s 14-game winning streak, they put themselves alone in first place in the Ivy League standings at 4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy. Princeton looks to keep on the winning track as it plays at Cornell (3-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) this Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team played at Harvard last fall, it put 39 points on the board but it wasn’t enough as the Crimson piled up 56.

Last Saturday, when the foes renewed their rivalry at Princeton Stadium before a sun-splashed crowd of 10,823, the Tigers again totaled 39 points.

But this time, that was enough to culminate one of the most remarkable, dizzying rallies in Ivy League football lore as Princeton fought back from a 24-point fourth quarter deficit to pull out a stunning 39-34 triumph over the nationally ranked and previously undefeated Crimson.

In so doing, the Tigers not only snapped No. 22 Harvard’s 14-game winning streak, they put themselves alone in first place in the Ivy League standings at 4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy.

In reflecting on his team’s rally for the ages, Princeton head coach Bob Surace pointed to belief.

“It is not only me believing in them but they have to believe in themselves and they do,” said Surace whose team was outgained 634 yards to 419.

“They never, ever thought there was anything but a chance and that we were going to make play after play. The Harvard team is terrific. I am looking at those stats, their quarterback [Colton Chapple] is outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about their players and how hard fought that game was.”

The Tigers got some good fortune to help bolster their self-belief. “We kept fighting; we got a few breaks,” said Surace.

“In other games we have lost because that fourth and one ended up being a first down at the end of the game. In this game, we were able to keep them one yard shy and they had to punt. We made a few plays to get down the field. I am glad we don’t play a seven-game series with them.”

Junior receiver Roman Wilson made the final big play, leaping to catch a Quinn Epperly pass for a game-winning 36-yard touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.

In recalling the play, Wilson wasn’t surprised that it worked. “We lined up quick and Quinn threw a good ball and I had the leverage on the safety and I just had to go up there and make a play,” said Wilson.

“It is something we do every week in practice and all the guys believed that it is going to work.”

Wilson’s grab triggered a wild celebration that saw his teammates mob him in the end zone and then moments later, the Princeton fans stormed the field after the final gun.

With his voice cracking, Wilson said the scene was something he’ll never forget.

“It is just an incredible feeling, looking up and seeing all the fans, and seeing all the alumni, and seeing all my teammates come in,” said Wilson, who ended the day with five catches for 111 yards.

“It means so much because we work so hard everyday. We believed in each other; we believe in every single day of practice. We believe that we are going to come out and give our best and win.”

Sophomore quarterback Epperly, who came on in the last drive in relief of the shaken up Connor Michelson, believed he could get the job done.

“I just had confidence that I could step in and pull it off too,” said Epperly. “This is a big time but just stay calm and try to win it for us.”

For most of the day, the idea of Princeton winning the game seemed farfetched, at best.

Harvard got out of the gate on fire; scoring two early touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Crimson added a touchdown early in the second quarter but their extra point attempt was blocked to make it 20-0.

As the teams headed into the locker room at halftime, Harvard maintained its 20-0 lead, having essentially run the Tigers out of their own building, outgaining Princeton 415 yards to 51.

In the locker room, Surace reminded his players that they had already shown this season that they could fight back from a big halftime deficit.

“I went in there and I told them, we were in this same spot against Lehigh,” recalled Surace.

“It was 17-0 and we fell a few plays short [in a 17-14 loss on September 15]. I said we are going to find out about the character of this group and see if we can show that we have grown as a team.”

The Tigers didn’t waste any time showing their character in the second half as Epperly made a one-yard touchdown run with 10:17 left in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 20-7. A Nolan Bieck 22-yard field goal made it 20-10 midway through the quarter.

But showing its championship mentality, Harvard responded with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Chapple to Kyle Juszczyk to end the quarter with a 27-10 lead.

Just 1:58 into the fourth quarter, the Crimson increased their advantage to 34-10 as Chapple found Cameron Brate for a 14-yard scoring strike.

With less than 12 minutes left in regulation, many fans headed to the exits. The Tigers, though, started heading to the end zone, beginning with a seven-yard TD pass from Michelson to Dre Nelson. Michelson proceeded to hit Tom Moak for a two-point conversion as Princeton cut the lead to 34-18.

Minutes later, Michelson hooked up with Matt Costello for a 29-yard touchdowns pass. Epperly came on and hit Shane Wilkerson for another two-point conversion as the Tigers made it a 34-26 game.

With the remaining crowd on its feet, Michelson struck again, hitting Seth DeValve for a 20-yard touchdown pass to make the score 34-32 with 2:27 remaining. Princeton’s two-point conversion attempt failed and Harvard took possession needing a first down to run out the clock. The Tigers held on third and seven, forcing Harvard to punt.

The Tigers got the ball on their own 10-yard-line with 1:57 left. Michelson, who ended the day with 237 yards passing and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, started the drive and hit two passes and made a run to get the ball to the 33. After getting sacked and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct on Harvard, Michelson left the game with an apparent hand injury.

Epperly then came in and after two runs had Princeton at the Harvard 36. With the crowd in an uproar, Epperly launched the ball to a far corner of the end zone where Wilson snatched it and the victory.

In reflecting on Princeton’s rally, senior defensive lineman and team captain Mike Catapano said the team’s ability to stay in the moment made the difference.

“You have to stay focused; you can’t let the big picture get to you and you focus on technique and making plays and that’s what this team did great today,” said Catapano,

“We just did not quit; we did not let the big picture overwhelm us. That is what we have done all season and that’s what we are going to continue to do, not relent, not give up, and believe.

Surace, for his part, knows that his team needs to maintain that focus as it plays at Cornell (3-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on Saturday with three games after that in November.

“It is week six; we have to keep playing,” said Surace. “There is a lot of wow right now. There have been Super Bowls where the ball hits off the helmet and you win the game and celebrate and everything else. The problem was that this wasn’t the Super Bowl; you have to play next week.”

While there is plenty of football to play, Princeton’s super comeback last Saturday will go down as one of the most celebrated games in Ivy history.

FACING OFF: Princeton University men’s ice hockey star Andrew Calof races up the ice in action last year. The Tigers are depending on junior forward Calof, the team’s leading scorer in 2011-12 with 31 points on 17 goals and 14 assists, to provide even more production as they look to improve on last year’s 9-16-7 record. Princeton starts regular season action by facing Brown on October 26 in the Ivy League Shootout in Providence, R.I. and then playing either Dartmouth or Yale the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s hockey team, rebounding from a frustrating 2011-12 campaign that saw it go 9-16-7 comes down to developing greater trust across the board.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier, for his part, needs to trust that he will work smarter after his first season at the helm of a college program.

“I am more patient overall,
taking more time to digest things,” said Prier. “I am thinking things through more clearly. We are being more efficient with advancements in technology.”

In Prier’s view, his players have gained a greater trust in themselves as they head into the season.

“They feel more organized; we have an agenda that we are sticking to now,” said Prier, whose team opens the 2012-13 season by facing Brown on October 26 in the Ivy League Shootout in Providence, R.I. and then playing either Dartmouth or Yale the next day.

“This group believes in each other. They want to do what they need to in order to be champions and be successful.”

Princeton’s success could depend on how much production it gets from its trio of star forwards, junior Andrew Calof (a team-high 31 points in 2011-12 on 17 goals and 14 assists), junior captain Jack Berger (22 points in 10 goals and 12 assists) and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum (21 points on 13 goals and eight assists).

“I expect a lot from those three,” said Prier. “The big thing for them is to get off to a good start. Given the depth of the team, it is not going to all be on their shoulders. We should have scoring by committee and they should be able to play looser and have some fun.”

Junior Berger provides leadership to go with his scoring prowess. “Berger has been a great leader, he is extremely thorough, extremely organized, and he conveys the proper things,” said Prier.

“We have an incredible group of captains with the three other guys (assistant captains Kleebaum, junior Kevin Ross, and senior Michael Sdao). It is a good mesh of personalities.

Prier believes that the skilled Calof can be one of the leading scorers in ECAC Hockey this winter.

“Andrew’s goal is and should be to be the biggest scoring threat in the league as a junior,” asserted Prier.

“It is something he can do with hard work. He is extremely instinctive and could end up being the leading scorer in the league.”

The Tigers should get some scoring at forward from junior Andrew Ammon (7 points on 4 goals and 3 assists), sophomore Aaron Kesselman (7 points on 4 goals and 3 assists), and senior Will MacDonald (11 points on 2 goals and 9 assists).

“It is exciting to see Ammon have a healthy year; Kesselman is hitting his stride after getting injured,” said Prier, noting that his quartet of freshman forwards, Mike Ambrosia, Kyle Rankin, Jonathan Liau, and Michael Zajac, looks promising.

“Willie MacDonald brings it everyday. He has as good a work ethic as anyone we have. All are veterans with another year under their belts.”

Princeton boasts an exciting talent at defenseman in senior Sdao, a 6’4, 230-pound bruiser who earned first-team All-Ivy league and second-team All-ECACH honors last winter as he scored 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists.

“Sdao has picked up a step; he is quicker,” said Prier. “He has always had the bomb but he is even better offensively. It is his senior year; this is his last crack at it and he is going to bring it. He could be a top defender in the league.”

The Tigers are looking for Ross (10 points on 3 goals and 7 assists) and senior Eric Meland (15 points on 2 goals and 13 assists) to bring up their games.

“Kevin Ross is coming off an injury but will be back soon; he brings poise, great stick skills, and is a great decision-maker,” added Prier.

“It is Meland’s first full year on defense. He really worked on his acceleration and backpedaling. He has offensive instincts. He is dangerous with the puck; I think he could get a lot of points.”

Juniors Alec Rush (4 assists) and Jeremy Goodwin (8 assists) should see a lot of time along the blue line.

“They were sophomores last year but it was almost like their first full season because they didn’t have a lot of playing time as freshmen,” said Prier.

“They learned a lot; they have adjusted to the speed of the game. They come with a lot more confidence.”

Prier is confident that his two top goaltenders, senior Mike Condon (2.88 goals against average in 2011-12) and junior Sean Bonar (3.17 goals against average), together with sophomore Ryan Benitez, can hold the fort between the pipes.

“They are both looking pretty good and Benitez is pushing them,” said Prier.

“The top two can be elite goalies and Benitez has worked hard. It is a nice competition between the three. It is up to them as to who will play. We play to win and we will go with whoever seems to be playing well. Sean worked hard  and has a great mindset and focus. Mike had a good summer of conditioning and Ryan has shown drastic improvement.”

In Prier’s view, the Ivy Shootout weekend will provide a good opportunity for his team to show its improvement.

“The big thing is the first game, working out the kinks and going against another team that is working out its kinks too,” said Prier.

In order to work through those kinks, the Tigers will rely on the trust it has forged since last winter.

“The culture is in a good spot; the mindset is good,” said Prier. “We are getting more trust within the team. We need to get the puck moving to spots and trust that a teammate will be there. Trust leads to consistency; we are much closer to that than we were last year at this point or even at midseason.”

RAY OF HOPE: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Rachel Sheehy boots the ball in action last season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sheehy got two assists to help Princeton top Harvard 3-1. Sheehy was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for her performance. On Monday, the Tigers topped LaSalle 2-1 in overtime to win their ninth straight game and improve to 11-3-1 overall. Princeton is 5-0 in Ivy League play and in sole possession of first place with both Penn and Dartmouth at 4-1 in league play. The Tigers play at Cornell (1-12-1 overall, 0-4-1 Ivy) on October 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University women’s soccer team was knotted in a scoreless draw with visiting Harvard last Saturday evening as the second half started, Tiger senior star Rachel Sheehy could sense the tide turning.

“We were going forward; we were finding our targets,” said midfielder Sheehy. “Caitlin Blosser and Jen Hoy were awesome holding the ball. We got in a rhythm.

Taking a corner kick 15 minutes into the half, Sheehy found Blosser in the box and she converted the feed to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. After Harvard tied the game at 1-1, Sheehy struck again, slotting a free kick into the crease which Blosser slammed home. Princeton added an insurance goal by Hoy minutes later to put the finishing touches on a 3-1

The win was the eighth straight for the Tigers and improved them to 5-0 in Ivy League play and in sole possession of first place with both Penn and Dartmouth at 4-1 in league play.

Sheehy pointed to the team’s response to the Harvard goal as emblematic of the team’s will to win.

“I think that is a testament to the leadership we have with upperclassmen on the field,” said Sheehy, a native of Exton, Pa. “In the past, we have kind of panicked. We really settled down and we just fought back.”

In getting her two assists, Sheehy coolly took care of business. “We have great targets like Blosser and Gabriella Guzman,” said Sheehy, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week as she posted her first career multi-assist game, and now has a career-best five assists on the year.

“They were open back post, I find them and they do the hard work. On the second one, I wanted to take that one and I took it back post and Guzman got her foot on it.”

In Sheehy’s view, the team’s great run has been sparked by the desire of the team’s seniors to go out on a high note.

“We are definitely on a mission; the senior class hasn’t won the Ivy League yet and we are just hungry for it,” asserted Sheehy, who is one of eight seniors on the squad which stretched its winning streak to nine as it edged LaSalle 2-1 in overtime on Monday in improving to 11-3-1 overall.

“Really nothing at this point is going to stop us as long as we keep playing well. We have two more games. We are going to get through Cornell and get the final one at Penn.”

In playing the best soccer of her career, Sheehy is feeding off that sense of urgency.

“I think the fact that this is it,” said Sheehy in reflecting on her late surge. “I have such a finite number of games left. My whole life has come down to this.”

CORE STRENGTH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Corey Stearns heads up the ice in action last winter. Last Saturday, senior forward Stearns scored a goal and added three assists as Princeton topped Robert Morris 6-3 to go 2-0 in its opening weekend of action. The Tigers, who topped Rochester Institute of Technology 2-1 on Friday in their season opener, start ECAC Hockey play by hosting Dartmouth October 26 and Harvard on October 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton University women’s ice hockey team didn’t have to wait long to be bailed out by freshman goalie Kimberly Newell.

Playing at Rochester Institute of Technology last Friday evening in its season opener, the Tigers labored to pull out a 2-1 victory as Newell made the difference.

“We played lousy against RIT; it was a combination of things,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, who got 33 saves from the Vancouver, B.C. native in her debut with Gabie Figueroa scoring in the first period and Sally Butler tallying the winning goal in the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

“They had a crowd of 1,350 for their Brick City Homecoming weekend. We may have taken them lightly and they forced us into some bad plays. The goalie pulled it off for us, we knew before that Kim was good but we learned that she is really good. I give the kids credit, they came back when they had to.”

A day later at Robert Morris, the Tigers came back with a superb effort as they trailed 2-1 early the second period before pulling away to a 6-3 victory. The Tigers got two goals and two assists from senior Kelly Cooke in the victory over Colonials with classmate Corey Stearns chipping in a goal and three assists and Butler, Rose Alleva and Brianna Leahy scoring a goal apiece.

“We played much better; we didn’t deserve to be down,” said Kampersal, noting that netminder Newell came up big again as she recorded 33 saves in the victory.

“Cooke had a big shorthanded goal; she was hustling all over the ice. Corey made some big plays around the net. We need those two as well as [Alex] Kinney to be dangerous; we are playing them together. It was good overall to get two wins.”

As Princeton opens ECAC Hockey action by hosting Dartmouth October 26 and Harvard on October 27, Kampersal knows his team will need to make more big plays to get two wins this weekend.

“We need to improve in some areas; we have to worry about ourselves and our game,” said Kampersal.

“We respect both opponents. Hopefully they will both be close competitive games. Dartmouth always has good forwards; they lost some to graduation but have replenished them from recruiting. They are strong, top to bottom. Harvard has got a goalie (Emerance Maschmeyer) who is like Kim Newell and they are always strong up front.”

October 17, 2012

BROWN OUT: Princeton University defensive lineman Caraun Reid, right, corrals Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly for one of his 2.5 sacks in Princeton’s 19-0 win over the Bears last Saturday. Senior star Reid was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the victory, which was Princeton’s third straight and lifted the Tigers to 3-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy. Princeton now hosts defending champion and 22nd-ranked Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) this Saturday in the program’s biggest game since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the players on the Princeton University football team convened this summer for their preseason camp, they were issued T-shirts saying “Believe.”

But after falling 17-14 at Lehigh and 21-20 to Georgetown in its first two games of the 2012 campaign, it was hard to believe that Princeton was any different from the teams that posted a combined  2-18 record over the last two seasons.

But then the Tigers rolled to a 33-6 rout at Columbia and followed that up with an impressive 35-14 win over Lafayette.

Last Saturday, the growing belief around the program officially turned to swagger as Princeton suffocated Brown 19-0 before a crowd of 6,482 at Princeton Stadium, stamping itself as a bona fide contender for the Ivy League title.

In handing Brown its first shutout since 1996 and snapping its Ivy record 162-game scoring streak, the Tigers improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in Ivy play, tied atop the league standings with Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) and Penn (2-3 overall, 2-0 Ivy). Princeton hosts the defending champion and 22nd-ranked Crimson this Saturday in the program’s biggest game since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.

Senior star defensive lineman Caraun Reid exemplified Princeton’s self-belief as he reflected on the win over Brown.

“We kept the focus all game; there wasn’t a moment where we had to worry about what we were doing,” said Reid, who had a safety to go with six tackles and 2.5 sacks.

“We were confident from the get-go. We’re playing with an extra little bit of oomph today, which was great. That’s what we need to do. I feel like we just played well. This is what we’re supposed to do. At times, we made mistakes in other games that would cost us, but today we just played really well and it showed.”

The win was even sweeter considering that the Tigers had suffered some adversity during the week as star sophomore cornerback Khamal Brown was lost for the season with a head injury on Tuesday. Brown, who is still hospitalized, wore his game jersey in his hospital bed as he watched the NBC Sports Network broadcast of the contest.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace said the team’s support of Brown gave its post-game celebration a special feel.

“It’s just a real fun, emotional locker room,” said Surace, whose team outgained Brown 380 yards to 242 on the day.

“We’ve had a tough week. Khamal’s dad called Coach [Jim] Salgado and asked for his jersey to see if he could wear it in the hospital yesterday. Just to see our guys come together — they do it every day, but sometimes it takes something like adversity to show it to everybody else. I’ve been coaching and playing around my dad’s team, and you’re just so proud of these guys. I’ve never been more proud of a team than how we just came together this week and supported Khamal while at the same time handling our academic and football duties. It’ll be something we’ll all remember for a long time, and we’ll continue our prayers and support for him. I thanked the guys for everything they’d done.”

The Princeton defense certainly handled its business with aplomb, holding Brown to 17 yards rushing, producing six sacks, coming up with interceptions by Anthony Gaffney and Phil Bhaya, and a fumble recovery by Alex Polofsky in addition to the safety by Reid. The Tiger defense is now ranked first in the Ivies in total defense and scoring defense.

Reid, for his part, said the unit planned to pitch a shutout. “We are not really surprised (at shutout); this is what we expect to do,” asserted the 6’2, 305-pound Reid, a first-team All-Ivy performer last fall.

“Last week, we expected a shutout. There were little things we messed up on, but the expectation is to not let them score. We’ll force them to kick a field goal, then block the field goal. We’re not letting them score. This is what we want to do. This is what we’re supposed to do. We’re happy we’re at this point and we’re going to get better.”

A surprise play helped Princeton draw first blood in the contest as left tackle Spenser Huston gathered in a throwback from quarterback Connor Michelson and raced 15 yards for a touchdown with 4:09 remaining in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Huston, for his part, was thrilled to hit paydirt. “This is my first touchdown at any level,” said the 6’4, 270-pound sophomore.

“I was definitely excited. I had the easiest job on the field. Connor threw a great ball, we blocked it perfectly. When I caught the ball, there was nothing but green grass in front of me, and it was a walk in there.”

After a Nolan Bieck field goal gave Princeton a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, Reid came up with his scoring play. With Brown backed up at its own one-yard line after mishandling the kickoff, Reid swooped in and tackled Mark Kachmer in the end zone for a safety as the Tigers stretched their advantage to 12-0.

“I just got off the ball as fast as possible,” recalled Reid, who was later named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Week and was awarded a helmet sticker honor by ESPN’s College Football Final broadcast.

“That’s a great credit to our punt team (it was a kickoff actually), but the ball was barely on the one. We just knew we had to get there. We were all hungry.”

Starting the second half up 12-0, the Tigers kept up their hungry play. Princeton extended its advantage to 19-0 early in the third quarter after Will Powers ran eight yards for a touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, the Tigers kept the Bears at bay, forcing three punts and stopping Brown on downs to put the finishing touches on the shutout.

In Reid’s view, the Tigers made a major statement with the win over the Bears.

“Absolutely we believed that (we were Ivy contenders going into the game); I believe we sent a message, a very physical message, to other teams in the league,” asserted Reid.

“We beat Columbia this year, and it was like, we beat them last year, great. But we have teams we haven’t beaten in my four years here. I haven’t beaten some teams yet. It’s like a checklist — we beat Brown, we’re going to beat Harvard, we’re going for it. I think we sent that message

The Tigers could send quite a message if they could upset Harvard, which is riding a 14-game winning streak and is scoring 41.0 points a game and giving up just 13.4 points per contest.

In order to overcome the Crimson, Princeton will need to rely on its veteran leaders and the confidence they have developed through maintaining their self-belief.

“When I got the job here; you see some things you’re going to emulate,” said Surace.

“I noticed Brown and I loved how their seniors replace seniors. They just have veteran guys. When you see a junior like Phil Bhaya coming on, Mandela Sheaffer coming on, Andrew Starks coming on, Caraun, Cat, Sotereanos, those names you’ve been saying for a long time, and now they’re finally, finally becoming mature men. That’s what we needed. We still have some young guys, but it’s a mixture and those young guys are being led by mature guys. I can’t say enough good things about their leadership.”

BUTLER SERVICE: Princeton University women’s hockey star Sally Butler heads up the ice in action last winter. Junior forward Butler, who led the Tigers in scoring last season with 26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists, will be looking to build on that success as Princeton gets its 2012-13 campaign underway this weekend. The Tigers open up by playing at RIT on October 19 and Robert Morris on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey program, the players in its Class of 2012 left an indelible impact.

The group of Ann-Marie Elvin, Julie Johnson, Heather Landry, co-captain Charissa Stadnyk, co-captain Paula Romanchuk, Danielle DiCesare, and Rachel Weber were immediate contributors when they joined the program in 2008.

Over the next four seasons, they provided production, leadership, and spirit in helping Princeton remain in the upper echelon of ECAC Hockey.

As the Tigers got together and started going through their paces in preparation for the 2012-13 campaign, the void was apparent to Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal.

“In preseason, a lot of the players couldn’t get over the fact that Paula and Rachel and those kids are gone,” said Kampersal, whose team went 12-15-4 overall last winter to finish seventh in the ECACH standings and ended up falling to Harvard in the league quarterfinals. “The preseason was a little fractured, different kids were doing different things.”

As the Tigers look forward to opening the season by playing at Rochester Institute of Technology on October 19 and Robert Morris on October 20, Kampersal senses that a new team identity is being forged.

“Since the first practice, things have come together,” said Kampersal, a former Princeton men’s hockey star who is in his 17th season at the helm of the program and is also the head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team. “Our group this year is good. We just need some more team bonding.”

The Tigers took a good step last weekend as they topped the Toronto Jr. Aeros 4-1 on Friday and Brown 4-2 the next day in two exhibition contests.

“We played pretty well; we had good production offensively,” said Kampersal. “We need to get better defensively; our power play needs to be a little better.”

Kampersal is confident that freshman goalie Kimberly Newell can emerge as a reliable last line of defense along the lines of Weber, who developed into one of the top goalies in the ECACH.

“Newell is young but she comes with a lot of experience,” said Kampersal, who will be using sophomore Ashley Holt as his backup goalie. “She is legit. She played on the Canada U-18 team; she is one of the top goalie recruits in the country.”

The Tigers welcome back their two top scoring forwards from a year ago in Sally Butler (26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists in 2011-12) and team captain Denna Laing (22 points on 11 goals and 11 assists). In addition, talented junior Olivia Mucha (10 points on 4 goals and 6 assists in 12 games) should return to action as she battles back from shoulder surgery.

“Both Butler and Laing are strong,” asserted Kampersal of the junior stars. “Mucha is back; she may be out the next 8-10 days but she should help us.”

The Tigers will also need help from a group of veteran forwards which includes senior assistant captain Kelly Cooke (9 points on 4 goals and 5 assists) and classmates Alex Kinney (7 points on 3 goals and 4 assists) and Corey Stearns (6 points on 3 goals and 3 assists) together with sophomore Brianna Leahy (9 points on 6 goals and 3 assists).

“We need the seniors and juniors to lead the way,” said Kampersal. “We have good freshmen. They are good players but they need older players to help them get up to speed.”

The defensive unit will need to be good as the Tigers don’t boast much depth along the blue line. Junior assistant captain Gabie Figueroa (7 points on 2 goals and 5 assists) and classmate Rose Alleva (8 points on 2 goals and 6 assists) should form one defensive pair with sophomores Ali Pankowski (13 points in 3 goals and 10 assists) and Brianne Mahoney (5 points on 2 goals and 3 assists) working together. Promising freshman Karen MacDonald figures to get plenty of ice time as well.

“Gabi and Rosie will lead the way; Pankowski and Mahoney have to step up,” said Kampersal.

“MacDonald is a steady Eddie; she is a good learner. She just needs to adjust to the speed of the game. All of the kids are going to play a ton; they are going to have to work hard.”

Kampersal realizes that his team is going to have to put in some good work to have a successful opening weekend.

“We don’t know much about RIT; they were Division III champs last year and are making the move up to Division I,” said Kampersal.

“They brought in some transfers; it is going to be a big weekend for them. We played Robert Morris last year and they have some real good players. They picked up some players from Niagara when that program was discontinued. It is going to be a long road trip; we are going to Rochester and then heading to Pittsburgh.”

As he looks ahead to the season, Kampersal believes his squad has what it takes to maintain the legacy of last year’s seniors.

“I want them to play hard, play smart, and be tough; we expect to compete in the ECAC,” maintained Kampersal.

“We don’t know where we will end up; it is a really tight league. We need goaltending and defense to be solid; we have to tighten up in the D-zone. Our power play has to be good; it was substandard last year.”

October 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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