October 30, 2013
OPENING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Denna Laing looks for the puck in a game last season. Last Friday, senior captain and forward Laing tallied a goal as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers, who fell 4-0 at Harvard on Saturday, host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 25, 2013
AT HIS BEST: Princeton University running back DiAndre ­Atwater heads upfield last Saturday as Princeton opened its 2013 season with a 31-27 defeat to visiting Lehigh. Sophomore Atwater had a big game in a losing cause, running for a career-best 111 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Atwater and the Tigers will look to get into the winning column when they play at Georgetown on September 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AT HIS BEST: Princeton University running back DiAndre ­Atwater heads upfield last Saturday as Princeton opened its 2013 season with a 31-27 defeat to visiting Lehigh. Sophomore Atwater had a big game in a losing cause, running for a career-best 111 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Atwater and the Tigers will look to get into the winning column when they play at Georgetown on September 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2012, the Princeton University football team opened its season by falling behind 17-0 to Lehigh at halftime.

In the second half, the Tigers mounted a furious rally only to come up short in a 17-14 defeat.

Last Saturday, Princeton flipped the script on the visiting Mountain Hawks as the teams renewed their rivalry in the Tigers’ season opener.

With the no-huddle offense clicking, the Tigers roared out to a 22-3 lead by intermission over No. 18 and 2-0 Lehigh.

“We came out pretty strong,” said Princeton senior safety and co-captain Phil Bhaya. “We made a couple of plays. We were playing fast.”

But this time, it was the Mountain Hawks who fought back, outscoring the Tigers 26-6 in the second half to pull out a dramatic 29-28 victory before 6,982 at Princeton Stadium and a national television audience as the contest was shown on NBC Sports.

A forlorn Princeton head coach Bob Surace acknowledged that Lehigh put on a dazzling show over the last 30 minutes of the game.

“They executed great on offense in the second half,” said Surace, reflecting on the defeat which was Princeton’s fourth straight loss in the series.

“We couldn’t get off the field. I think in the third drive [in the second half], they had a 15-play drive. They had a couple of other drives. Both teams had good tempo to their offenses. Not getting off the field on those key plays put some guys on the field more than we would have liked. They did a great job.”

Staying on the field so long appeared to wear down the Princeton defense.

“We’ll look at it on film and see if our energy was the same; my initial impression is no it wasn’t,” said Surace. “We’ll see if we have to rotate more guys. They were on the field a lot.”

Princeton had plenty of energy on the offensive side of the ball as it piled up 501 yards, nearly matching the 513 yards gained by Lehigh.

“Both teams ended up with 500 yards of offense,” said Surace. “It was almost like whatever team had the ball last. I think we punted twice and they punted three times. We couldn’t get each other off the field. If you could get back-to-back drives, that was the key. We wanted to get three-and-outs because they were tired.”

In the first half, the Tigers ran the Mountain Hawks ragged, starting with its first possession of the game. After senior linebacker Jason Ray recovered a Lehigh fumble, Princeton took over at its 24-yard-line and proceeded to march 76 yards in six plays, taking a 6-0 lead on an 18-yard touchdown gallop by sophomore DiAndre Atwater. The Tigers made it 8-0 as Ray ran in a two-point conversion.

Midway through the second quarter, Princeton increased its lead to 15-0 as junior quarterback Quinn Epperly passed and ran the Tigers up the field. Epperly connected on two straight passes to Matt Costello and hit Atwater on a seven-yard aerial to get Princeton to the Lehigh 14-yard line. After Atwater rushed for 10 yards, Epperly made a 4-yard touchdown run.

Lehigh answered with a field goal to make it 15-3 but the Tigers went on the march again, this time triggered by the passing of Princeton’s other junior quarterback, Connor Michelsen, to senior star Roman Wilson. Michelsen found Wilson for gains of 23 and 33 yards as Princeton advanced to the Lehigh 5. Epperly then came on and culminated the 75-yard march with a 5-yard scoring strike to Wilson as Princeton built a 22-3 advantage at intermission.

In Wilson’s view, the Tigers hurry-up offense had the Mountain Hawks on their heels. “That is how we try to play,” said Wilson. “We want to play as fast as we can, whether the defense is ready for it or not.”

In the second half, Princeton seemed ready to put the game out of reach, taking the opening kickoff and marching 55 yards to the Lehigh 21. The drive stalled and the Tigers lost the ball on downs, eschewing a field goal attempt in the wake of a blocked kick by Lehigh in the first half.

Led by senior quarterback Brandon Bialkowski, Lehigh caught fire. With Bialkowski hitting on 7-of-10 passes, the Mountain Hawks drove to the Princeton five. Tailback Keith Sherman took it from there, scoring on a five-yard touchdown run as Lehigh narrowed the gap to 22-9.

After a Princeton three-and-out, the Mountain Hawks went on the march again. Bialkowski connected on 8-of-10 passes, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Zach Hayden as Lehigh made it a 22-16 game.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Mountain Hawks flew past the Tigers, marching 73 yards after blocking another Princeton field goal attempt. A pass play of 48 yards from Bialkowski to Josh Parris got Lehigh to the Princeton 4. The quarterback then found Dylan Colgate in the end zone and the Mountain Hawks converted the extra point to edge ahead 23-22 with 11:31 remaining in regulation.

Showing resilience, Princeton responded with a 71-yard scoring march which saw both Michelsen and Epperly make big plays as the former completed three straight passes to get Princeton into Lehigh territory while the latter made a key run and pass to move the Tigers to the Lehigh 17. Atwater produced another big run, spurting 17 yards for paydirt and his second touchdown of the evening. Princeton’s two-point conversion failed, leaving the Tigers ahead 28-22 with 8:03 left in the fourth quarter.

But Bialkowski kept up his hot play, hitting on 7-of-8 passes to get the Mountain Hawks to the Princeton 17. Running the ball four straight plays from there, Lehigh capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Sean Farrell to go ahead by 29-28.

The Tigers got the ball with 2:45 remaining and made one first down on a 13-yard run by Atwater, who ended the game with a career-high 111 yards on 13 carries. A Michelsen pass, though, was intercepted three plays later and Lehigh ran out the clock to seal the victory.

Wilson, for his part, was in no mood to see the performance against Lehigh as a moral victory for the Tigers.

“We showed flashes but it didn’t matter because we didn’t finish,” said a glum Wilson, who made a career-high nine receptions for 168 yards in the game.

“That was the big difference. A lot of the time it is the little things. That is what we are going to have to do, go back and watch the film and fix those little things.”

While Surace was proud of how his team battled, he acknowledged that it squandered a big opportunity.

“When they took the lead by one, for our offense to go down the field and score a touchdown was a good sign,” said Surace, whose team plays at Georgetown on September 28.

“The bottom line is that we didn’t win. We can’t sugarcoat that but when you are looking for positives, that was a real positive. We showed a lot of heart in that drive. There are positives you can take against a team like Lehigh but the bottom line is we had a chance to make a statement and we didn’t.”

MOORE READY: Mike Moore waits for the puck in action with the San Jose Sharks. Former Princeton University standout defenseman Moore ’08 signed with the Boston Bruins over the summer and skated in the team’s training camp before being assigned to Providence of the American Hockey League (AHL).(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

MOORE READY: Mike Moore waits for the puck in action with the San Jose Sharks. Former Princeton University standout defenseman Moore ’08 signed with the Boston Bruins over the summer and skated in the team’s training camp before being assigned to Providence of the American Hockey League (AHL). (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Espousing a philosophy centering on hard work, tenacious play, and skill, the Boston Bruins have written some inspiring chapters in the franchise’s storied history in recent years.

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and were two wins away from another title last year, falling 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks in the championship series.

Attracted by the club’s approach and success, former Princeton University men’s hockey star Mike Moore signed with the Bruins this summer as he joins his third NHL organization after having spent the majority of the past five years playing in the American Hockey League (AHL).

For the 2008 Princeton alum, moving to the Bruins was a no-brainer, considering his blue collar approach to the game.

“They are such a successful franchise,” said Moore, a defenseman who previously played for the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators organizations.

“You realize there may be an opportunity there and that it’s a good place for you to fit in and play that style of hard-nosed hockey that they play.”

The Bruins, for their part, identified the gritty Moore as a good fit for their organization.

“They were one of the teams that were interested,” said Moore, 28, a 6’1, 210-pound native of Calgary, Alberta who was a free agent after last season and skated in the Bruins training camp before being assigned to Providence of the AHL.

“They’d really like me to play in their system. They’ve watched me play before and they know what to expect. I was excited from what they said when we talked. It looks like it could be a good opportunity, so I’m going to give it the best shot that I can.”

Moore enjoyed an exciting career at Princeton, earning first-team All-Ivy League and first-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECACH) honors as senior in 2007-08 and getting chosen as the ECACH Defenseman of the Year. He helped Princeton win the ECACH championship in that 2007-08 campaign and received the Blackwell Trophy as the team’s most valuable player and the Class of 1941 Trophy for his inspiration and leadership. He also was one of the recipients of the William Winston Roper Trophy, given to the top Princeton senior male athletes.

In Moore’s view, his experience at Princeton and the chance to skate for Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky, now at Penn State, played a critical role in his ascension to the professional ranks.

“It molded me into the person I am today,” said Moore, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major who tallied 52 points in his Tiger career on 14 goals and 38 assists.

“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am right now in my hockey career if I didn’t go to Princeton. I had those experiences with my teammates and Guy Gadowsky. The mentoring from the older classmates I experienced there was awesome.”

Moore began his professional career shortly after completing his senior season in Princeton. He played in the San Jose Sharks’ minor league affiliate in Worcester for three games after graduation and went on to spend four straight seasons in Worcester. In the 2010-11 season, Moore got his first taste of the NHL as he played six games with San Jose. Last year, Moore skated in the Nashville Predators’ farm system and participated in 50 games with the Milwaukee Admirals.

As he has toiled in the AHL, Moore has watched with pride as some of his fellow Princeton alums have reached the NHL by dropping the gloves. Standouts such as George Parros and Kevin Westgarth have both advanced to the NHL as fighters, a far cry from their days skating against Ivy League opponents.

“Those guys are in a class by themselves,” said Moore. “There are a lot of tough guys that came out of Princeton. You’re pretty proud to have those guys represent the school at that level. They do an unbelievable job in their communities and they’re well respected in the league. It’s pretty inspiring to see.”

No matter how former Tigers advance through the professional ranks, they are all serving as inspiration for Moore as well as a powerful recruiting tool at Princeton.

“It’s awesome to see for the program,” asserted Moore.  “Guys now see it as a place where they can keep their careers going. I hope they know they can not only get a good education but also that hockey is a path they can follow.”

Moore knows he faces a fight in getting called up to the Bruins. “There haven’t been a lot of promises, but that’s not necessarily what you’re looking for during the process of free agency,” said Moore.

“You just try to work hard for when that opportunity might come. You just battle and keep trying to improve. You want to play the style of game that they say will get you to the next level, and you hope that opportunity is there.”

300 HITTER: Princeton University water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, center, makes a point during a game last season. Last Saturday, Nicolao earned his 300th win guiding the Tiger men’s program as Princeton topped Johns Hopkins 15-10. Nicolao, who has been overseeing both Princeton water polo teams for 16 seasons, also has 348 wins at the helm of the Tiger women’s program. In upcoming action, the 13th-ranked Princeton men’s squad, now 6-0, heads west for its annual California swing where it will play seven games between September 27-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

300 HITTER: Princeton University water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, center, makes a point during a game last season. Last Saturday, Nicolao earned his 300th win guiding the Tiger men’s program as Princeton topped Johns Hopkins 15-10. Nicolao, who has been overseeing both Princeton water polo teams for 16 seasons, also has 348 wins at the helm of the Tiger women’s program. In upcoming action, the 13th-ranked Princeton men’s squad, now 6-0, heads west for its annual California swing where it will play seven games between September 27-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Luis Nicolao to realize that his Princeton University men’s water polo team might be something special this year.

Hosting its annual Invitational at DeNunzio Pool from September 13-15, Princeton opened the season by edging No. 16 Santa Clara 9-7 and went on to beat Harvard 14-7 and Iona 11-6 to make it a perfect weekend.

“It was a good confidence builder, we had some new faces in the water and you never know what you are going to have before the season starts,” said longtime head coach Nicolao.

“We felt like we had a nice squad and some nice additions and once we got into the games, it was good to see that.”

Nicolao saw some good things last weekend as 13th-ranked Princeton went on the road to start Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Southern Southern Division play and came away with three more victories to improve to 6-0. The Tigers topped Johns Hopkins 15-10 and Navy 12-7 on Saturday and then defeated George Washington 9-5 on Sunday.

“We call it the tour of death,” said Nicolao, referring to the annual swing to the DC-Baltimore area.

“Hopkins and GW have different dimensions with a shallow end. We are just looking to get out of there with wins any way we can.”

The win over Hopkins was special as it marked the 300th win for Nicolao at the helm of the Tiger men’s program.

“It means I have been here a long time and I am getting up in age,” joked Nicolao, who also coaches the Tiger women’s team and has guided that program to a 348-128 mark as he enters his 16th year at Princeton.

“It’s nice. It is a combination of being here a while and having a lot of good players.”

Nicolao was proud of the way his team took care of business as it started league play.

“I thought we controlled the tempo in all three games,” said Nicolao. “We wanted to shorten the game and milk the shot clock. Regardless of which pool we are in, we want to play good defense. I think we did that except for a couple of quarters.”

The team’s offense showed plenty of balance, triggered by junior star and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg, who has 17 goals and 11 assists so far this season.

“We have multiple guys who can score,” said Nicolao, who is getting good production out of sophomore Thomas Nelson, junior Kayj Shannon, freshman Jovan Jeremic, sophomore Jamie Kuprenas, and senior Kurt Buchbinder.

“If one guy is off, another steps up. Drew is so smart and is such an all-around player. He is enjoying our depth, it takes pressure off of him.”

The defense is sparked by the goalie tandem of senior Ben Dearborn and sophomore Alex Gow.

“Ben is back and healthy,” said Nicolao. “We believe we have two ‘A’ goalies. I have complete confidence in both of them and we will go with the guy who has the hot hand. If we are going to go far, it is with defense. I have been really impressed by our defense, we have played really good defense this season.”

The team’s cohesiveness in and out of the water has also impressed Nicolao.

“I think right now, I am happiest about the chemistry,” said Nicolao. “We have a great group of guys and we are excited about what could happen this season.”

Princeton has an exciting week ahead as it heads west on its annual California swing. On September 27, Princeton plays at Chapman and Long Beach State. A day later, the Tigers are at La Verne, Southern Cal, and UCLA. Princeton wraps up the trip on September 29 when they play at Claremont, McKenna, and Whittier.

“We always look forward to that trip,” said Nicolao. “We are playing high-level teams, we are facing the No. 1 (Southern Cal) and 2 (UCLA) teams next weekend so I don’t think we will be undefeated on Monday. We will just concentrate on our own game, playing our 5-man and 6-man offense. We try to get in as many games as we can.”

September 18, 2013
FILLING THE BILL: Princeton University football senior co-captains Philip Bhaya, left, and Caraun Reid are all smiles at the program’s recent media day. The defensive stars will have their game faces on this Saturday when Princeton hosts Lehigh (2-0) in its season opener.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FILLING THE BILL: Princeton University football senior co-captains Phillip Bhaya, left, and Caraun Reid are all smiles at the program’s recent media day. The defensive stars will have their game faces on this Saturday when Princeton hosts Lehigh (2-0) in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Phillip Bhaya, playing for the Princeton University football team is something he envisioned doing as a grade schooler growing up in nearby Haddonfield.

“I can actually remember coming here with my family in the summer time and just coming onto this field when I was probably 10 years old and thinking it would be great to play here and here I am 11 years later,” said Princeton senior safety Bhaya standing on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium at the program’s annual media day.

Bhaya has not only emerged as a star in the secondary, he is a respected team leader, having been chosen to serve as a co-captain of the 2013 Tigers along with defensive lineman and classmate Caraun Reid.

Despite his current stature with the team and being an All-South Jersey defensive back, Bhaya was not a prized recruit for Princeton.

“When I was recruited, it was the year with the coaching change so it was a little shaky with the old staff going out and the new staff coming in,” said Bhaya.

“I actually didn’t get an offer until after signing day. When they offered, I jumped on it.”

Bhaya quickly jumped up the Princeton depth chart, seeing plenty of action as a freshman in 2010, making 20 tackles and earning the program’s Harland “Pink” Baker ’22 Award as the team’s top defensive freshman.

While Bhaya enjoyed success in his debut season, he acknowledged that it took a while for him to feel a comfort level.

“Probably at first, it was the speed of the game,” said the 5’11, 190-pound Bhaya.

“You have got great athletes at all positions. When you combine that with the mental speed of it, all the new plays, formations, checks that you have to be so locked in on every play, that is probably the biggest jump that you have to make from high school to the Ivy League level.

After a frustrating sophomore year where he was hampered by a quad problem and made only six tackles, Bhaya was back at full speed last fall as a junior and raring to go.

“I was excited; I moved back to safety, which I feel more comfortable with,” said Bhaya. “I had offseason motivation from that injury and it was great being able to come back and really help the team.”

Princeton produced an exciting season in the 2012 as the Tigers improved to 5-5 after two straight 1-9 campaigns.

“I think from top to bottom, just buying into the program, was something that we saw last year,” said Bhaya, who made 52 tackles and had three interceptions in 2012.

“No knock on the other years or some of the other guys but more than any year, last year we had guys stepping up and playing together for the first time. Once we got things rolling against Columbia and Lafayette, I think that really changed our mindset of going out and winning games.”

Winning the Harvard game last October in a rally for the ages which saw Princeton overcome a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to earn a 39-34 victory over the previously undefeated Crimson is still on Bhaya’s mind.

“Obviously, that was a big game,” said Bhaya. “It is probably the best sports memory I have had; that comeback was something else.”

Being named as a team co-captain this spring stands as another great memory for Bhaya.

“It was a humbling honor; there is a lot of senior leadership on this team which now makes my job easy,” said Bhaya.

“We have leaders at every position. To be picked among the guys I have been working hard with for four years is something that was really humbling. I like to lead by example but I am not afraid to speak up. I can be a rah rah guy in the locker room if it needs to be. First, it is leading by example, working hard and doing the right thing.”

During preseason camp, the Tigers have been doing the right things to build on last year’s progress.

“I think we are excited to get going here but also more focused than ever,” said Bhaya.

“There are obviously new offenses and new defenses and different plays that everyone is trying to learn but we have a lot of depth and a lot of experience so guys know how to approach the camp atmosphere and know how to prepare.”

Bhaya is hoping that experience will come in handy when the Tigers host Lehigh this Saturday to open their 2013 campaign.

“It is a great program over there,” said Bhaya of the Mountain Hawks, who are 2-0 and currently ranked No. 19/22 in the country and have a three-game winning streak in the series, including a 17-14 victory over the Tigers in 2012.

“The last three years have all been pretty close games going down to the fourth quarter and obviously we didn’t come out on the right side the last three times so that is something that we would like to get done here. They are not in the Ivy League but we play them every year so we have developed a rivalry.”

The Tigers are determined to get it done in the Ivies as they look to move up from last year’s 4-3 league mark and third-place finish.

“We definitely have the pieces to take that next step from that 5-5 season last year where we were so close,” asserted Bhaya.

“I think what is going to help us get there is the experience we have had. We have so much coming back on offense, we have so many weapons. Defensively, we lost a couple of guys, Mike Catapano and Andrew Starks, but a lot of the guys played and had that experience from last year. We have been there before and we are going to know how to win and close out games at the end because every game in the Ivy League is close. There is so much parity in the league.”

TITLE TALK: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace chats during the program’s recent media day. After guiding the Tigers to back-to-back 1-9 seasons in his first two years at the helm of his alma mater, Surace ’90 led the Tigers to a 5-5 record in 2012. The four-win improvement marked the biggest single-season turnaround for the program in more than two decades. Princeton, which went 4-3 in Ivy League play last fall to tie for third place, was in the league title race until the final day of the season. The Tigers look to build on that progress as they kick off their 2013 campaign by hosting Lehigh (2-0) on September 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE TALK: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace chats during the program’s recent media day. After guiding the Tigers to back-to-back 1-9 seasons in his first two years at the helm of his alma mater, Surace ’90 led the Tigers to a 5-5 record in 2012. The four-win improvement marked the biggest single-season turnaround for the program in more than two decades. Princeton, which went 4-3 in Ivy League play last fall to tie for third place, was in the league title race until the final day of the season. The Tigers look to build on that progress as they kick off their 2013 campaign by hosting Lehigh (2-0) on September 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After spending the last three years tirelessly laying the groundwork for restructuring the Princeton University football program, Bob Surace is ready to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

“In that first year, you are just trying to get everything organized and get  everything right,” said Princeton head coach Surace ’90 at the program’s recent media day as he reflected on entering his fourth season at the helm of his alma mater.

“You are so intense on making sure everything is done. Now that we have practice schedules and scripts and a lot of our staff members have been here for multiple years, you are not coaching the coaches as much. You are not coaching the players as much because they know what the expectation is. Now you are just playing football and, for me, that is the fun part. Now you can go out and you just wake up so excited to enjoy the practice. I think we have got the process in a good place right now.”

Last fall, Princeton had some fun as it posted a 5-5 record after two straight 1-9 campaigns. In order to take the next step and move to the top of the Ivy League heap after going 4-3 in league play in tying for third place in 2012, the Tigers are fine-tuning their practice approach.

“We really have been hitting situations,” said Surace, noting that he replicates game scenarios in practice, complete with score, time remaining, and down and distance, to help sharpen his team.

“I got this off some things that have been done by a couple of NFL teams. Our coaches have really thought these things through. We are not going to hit all of them, we don’t have enough time in 28 practices for all of them but we can hit a lot of them. There are things you can coach up off the film, not only your technique but they have to know down and distance, they have got to know the score, they have got to know the opponent. They have got to know the tendencies.”

The Tigers face an interesting situation as they may use a quarterback rotation with juniors Connor Michelsen (146-for-238 passing for 1634 yards and six touchdowns in 2012) and Quinn Epperly (480 yards passing and 314 yards rushing in 2012) like they did last year.

“We’ll see how that plays out; they are competing,” said Surace. “We did play multiple guys last year and if that happens, it happens; but be creative and let’s push the envelope. If we have different guys who bring different skill sets, let’s utilize that.”

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach James Perry has no problem with that arrangement and sees it as making things harder for Princeton’s foes.

“Last year, it was somewhat of an organic process,” said Perry. “It evolved into some things that actually made us more dynamic and it evolved in a way that four years ago when I got here, I would not have foreseen. Not to say that it is old hat, it has only been one year but we are past the adjustment and growing pains along those lines which is nice. It is not particularly common to have quarterbacks in those positions, we have that luxury and using it is something we have grown accustomed to.”

Surace believes the Tigers are also blessed with the luxury of depth at running back with the return of junior Will Powers ( a team-high 455 yards rushing in 2012), senior Brian Mills, sophomore DiAndre Atwater (181 yards rushing), and sophomore Dre Nelson (63 yards rushing).

“Our running backs yesterday had the best practice since I have been here,” asserted Surace.

“Brian Mills, who came off a really good spring, he got yo-yoed back and forth. He had a couple of plays where he just dragged guys. There was a lot of short yardage plays; it was four-minute drill and goal-line. Will Powers has been playing better than he has. He has looked really sharp. DiAndre Atwater looked real. He made some guys miss in space, something that we saw last year when he was healthy. For Dre Nelson, those situations aren’t his cup of tea; he is better at them than he was but there have been times at practice where he has really been exciting in the open field.”

In Perry’s view, Princeton has some exciting options at receiver in senior All-Ivy performer Roman Wilson (a team-high 37 catches for 649 yards in 2012), senior Matt Costello (31 catches for 316 yards), junior Connor Kelley (23 catches for 242 yards) and junior Seth DeValve (20 catches for 219 yards).

“It helps to have some depth on the outside at the wide receiver position,” said Perry.

“From an offensive pass game standpoint, we are certainly past the first couple of years where we tried to install a mindset and how we want the pass game to go and it is reflective of how we are playing right now. We have four returners at the wide receiver position who all played a huge number of reps last year. Obviously we have two quarterbacks who played a huge amount of reps last year. From a pass game perspective, we are further along than we have ever been and the kids will try to push that further.”

A battle-tested offensive line that features senior Joe Goss, who has 28 starts, along with junior All-Ivy performer Spenser Huston, senior Max Coale, junior Jack Woodall, and junior Mike Ramos should provide a good push in the trenches.

“To have all the guys returning all across the board is a good place to be,” said Perry.

“Probably equally important, with the tempo that we play, we don’t play five linemen. We are going to play seven or eight linemen by design so we need that many guys ready to go.”

One of the biggest challenges for the 2013 Tigers is to make up for the production on the defensive line with the graduation of Mike Catapano, the 2012 Ivy Defensive Player of the Year who is now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Defensive co-coordinator and associate head coach Steve Verbit acknowledges that it will take a group effort to replace the 12 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss produced by Catapano last fall.

“You do it as a team,” said Verbit. “It is tough to replace an NFL football player but we think we have got some pretty good kids who work extremely hard. Our hope is that a number of those kids will pick up one or two sacks which will enable us to make up for those 12 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.”

Senior All-Ivy performer and team co-captain Caraun Reid, a pro prospect himself, should be able to pick up much of the slack.

“He is 6’2, 303 pounds and runs somewhere around a 4.8 40-yard dash,” said Verbit of Reid, who had 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2012.

“He is extremely explosive, those are a couple of qualities that make him special. He is experienced, he has started since his freshman year so he has a lot of games under his belt. He’s got great physical traits and he is an extremely hard worker in terms of not only understanding of what he has to do on the field, he studies the game off the field.”

Defensive co-coordinator Jim Salgado likes the work he is getting from his group of linebackers, which includes senior Jason Ray, senior Alex Polofsky, junior Garrit Leicht, and junior Mike Zeuli.

“The linebackers are looking good,” said Salgado. “We have a good group of guys there. They are out there working hard, getting better each day. We have good depth. We are happy about the freshman class that came in. That’s what it’s all about — competition.”

The Tiger secondary is certainly competitive, led by senior co-captain Philip Bhaya and sophomore All-Ivy performer Anthony Gaffney  together with sophomore Matt Arends and sophomore Jakobi Johnson.

“We had guys moving around at different positions,” said Salgado. “We had two true freshmen playing at corner for us last year every game so they are back and more experienced. We got some good young guys that came in here that are going to be able to help us.”

Salgado is looking for safety Bhaya and cornerback Gaffney to spearhead that unit.

“Phil has played a lot of football for us,” said Salgado. “We had him out at corner and eventually got him to where he needed to be at safety. He had a great year for us last year and we expect another big one coming up. Anthony has improved; he is having a good camp.”

Princeton is expecting its defense to create more turnovers this fall. “We hear people talk about turnovers all the time,” said Verbit.

“It is about energy, it is about hustle, and it is about effort. The more guys you have around the ball, the more opportunities you have to get turnovers. The first guy in tries to secure the tackle and the next guys in try to get to the ball. If the ball pops out and you have 11 guys running to the ball, chances are that you are going to have an opportunity to get it once it is on the ground. We work at it each and every day and we stress it.”

Surace, for his part, believes the defensive emphasis on taking the ball away has served to make the Princeton offense better with the ball.

“They are thinking about creating more turnovers and that’s forcing our offense to take care of the ball better,” noted Surace.

“I love our approach that way. I think we were minus 10 turnovers in our last four losses; I think we gave up 11 and only got one. That’s not a recipe for success.”

In Surace’s view, honing the team’s up tempo offense is the best recipe for success.

“We ran a no huddle when I was with the Bengals for the best year we had on offense,” said Surace.

“You are still running the same plays but maybe you are getting a more vanilla defense or you are not getting substitutions on defense. I think for the players, if you asked them, they would rather run 85 plays than 60. I think it is exciting. I think recruits really buy into this.”

Princeton faces an exciting challenge in its season opener on Saturday evening as it hosts 2-0 Lehigh, who is ranked No. 19/22 nationally and owns a three-game winning streak in the series between the schools, including a 17-14 victory over the Tigers in 2012.

“Everybody in the world knows that Lehigh has two more games than us and they started camp three weeks before us and all these things we could use as excuses but instead let’s use it as a weapon,” said Surace.

“Let’s have more urgency at practice, let’s practice better because we can control how good we are. We can’t control the Ivy League schedule or anything else but we can control us. That’s a tough first game. They have been a nationally ranked team three years running, they have a lot of guys back, and they have a very respected program so that forces urgency. I think our guys are getting that. There is a time when you cross the line, school is out and everything else. You need to give us two great hours and they are doing that.”

If the Tiger players can maintain that focus, they could enjoy some great moments this fall.

HALL PASS: Princeton University men’s soccer player Nico ­Hurtado controls the ball last Sunday against Seton Hall. Sophomore forward Hurtado came up big in the game as he assisted Bryan Windsor on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory by the Tigers. Princeton, now 1-2, plays at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22.

HALL PASS: Princeton University men’s soccer player Nico ­Hurtado controls the ball last Sunday against Seton Hall. Sophomore forward Hurtado came up big in the game as he assisted Bryan Windsor on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory by the Tigers. Princeton, now 1-2, plays at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22.

As Bryan Windsor went through practice last week for the Princeton University men’s soccer team, the Boulder, Colo. native’s thoughts were on his hometown and the deadly flooding there.

“There is two feet of water in my house which is tough but as long as my family is safe then I am OK,” said freshman midfielder Windsor.

Last Sunday against visiting Seton Hall, Windsor felt a lot better than OK as he knocked in his first career goal and the lone score as Princeton edged the Pirates 1-0 to earn its first victory of the season.

“It was a good team goal; it was a good buildup,” said Windsor, reflecting on his tally which came with 27:09 left in regulation as he volleyed in a rebound of shot by Nico Hurtado.

“We had a good cross and then Nico had a good shot and I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. It feels great to help contribute to the team and it feels great to get the first win. I am happy just to help out the team however I can.”

Windsor was happy to see the Tigers get on the right track after losing 3-2 at Rutgers on Friday and 3-0 at Fairleigh Dickinson a week earlier.

“We had a game on Friday so our legs were a little bit tired so we just had to get a couple of minutes under our belt,” said Windsor,

“So when we started livening up, we started calming down and playing better soccer. In our past two games, we have gotten scored on three times. At halftime, we talked about really pushing up the level of play.”

The wiry 5’8, 135-pound Windsor is trying to keep from getting pushed around as he makes the jump to college soccer.

“It has been the pace and size,” said Windsor, reflecting on his adjustment to the next level.

“There are some big kids and they are fast too. Physically, it has been tough. But if I play a quicker game with the ball, then I have been able to settle in. Whatever time I get, I love. Whatever position I am, I just love to be on the field.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow loved seeing Windsor come through with the game winner against Seton Hall.

“The thing with Windsor is that he is a great soccer player,” asserted Barlow. “He sees things, he makes connections. He has struggled in the first couple of games when the game is going 100 miles per hour to find the ball. We felt today that the pace of the game was a little slower and that he could make a difference in the game and he did.”

In Barlow’s opinion, better defensive play by Princeton made a big difference in the contest.

“Defensively we were so frustrated Friday at the kind of goals we were giving away,” said Barlow.

“We would just shoot ourselves in the foot because we play a good stretch and get a lead and the kind of goals we gave away against Rutgers, we thought were preventable. One was a PK, one was off a punt. Give Rutgers a lot of credit, they took it to us for a good stretch of the game. We needed to really be tighter around the goal and it was nice to see us do that today although the last couple of minutes were a little hairy.”

Things have been hairy for Princeton as the squad has been hit by a rash of injuries in the early going.

“Hopefully this week we will get some more guys back from injury,” said Barlow.

“It has been so many guys. Myles McGinley didn’t play against Rutgers, Pat O’Neil didn’t play against Rutgers. Jack Hilger didn’t play in either game. Brendan McSherry played great against Rutgers but hurt his knee and didn’t play today. Julian Griggs is still a little bit off. Dylan Bowman tore his ACL. It has been a tough week injury-wise for us.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan showed toughness in the Seton Hall win, making four saves as he earned his first shutout of the year.

“I thought Seth did a better job today of being ready for plays and being off his line for through balls more and on balls over the top,” said Barlow.

“He cleaned up a lot of those plays. That was a concern of ours in the first two games and he took a step forward today too.”

With Princeton playing at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22, the Tigers will need to take more steps forward to hold their own against such competition.

“You got to keep trying to put the pieces together this early in the season,” said Barlow.

“You can’t drop too many games while you are trying to figure it out and we have the added challenge of trying to figure it out with five or six guys injured. We really needed a good result. It is a good thing that we are playing so many good teams early but you don’t want to fall too far behind by dropping so many early games. We have a huge week now with Loyola, who is undefeated, and Georgetown, who was a national finalist last year. Hopefully we will get a little healthier and keep it going.”

Windsor, for his part, believes that the win over Seton Hall will get the Tigers going in the right direction.

“We just needed this one,” said Windsor. “It really lifts our spirits after two losses. I think we can build off this momentum.”

September 11, 2013
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for freshman forward Tyler Lussi to make an impact for the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

Playing in the season opener last Friday night against visiting Richmond, Lussi came off the bench and scored the first goal in the contest early in the second half, sparking the Tigers as they went on to a 2-0 victory.

“To get the first goal in the beginning of the second half was really nice,” said Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md.

“It set the pace for the rest of the game and then Lauren Lazo got the goal right after me. It just settled us down.”

The Lazo-Lussi combination paid dividends two days later as Princeton topped Army 3-0 with junior Lazo scoring the first Tiger goal and Lussi chipping in the other two.

“We are definitely playing off of each other and we know where each other are on the field and we are making good runs,” said Lussi. “We are getting it done.”

Reflecting on her debut, Lussi didn’t see herself emerging as the team’s top finishing threat.

“I think I came out wanting to win the game and came out playing strong and hard and wanting to take shots, getting into the goal area,” said Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982.

“It was really good. I thought my teammates did a really good job, they got me the ball and we just put it away.”

Lussi was happy with the way she put away her goals in the win over Army as she scored on a blast to the low corner in the first half and then deftly volleyed the ball over the Army goalie early in the second period for her other tally.

“Lauren and I were both right there but I hit it nice and hard on the ground into the corner,” said Lussi, who won the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big debut weekend.

“I wasn’t trying to go for power. I was going for pace and I put it away. On the second one, I was trying to lift it over nice and easy.”

For Lussi, sharp finishing is a staple of her game. “I have always had good accuracy on the ball,” said Lussi, who played for the Bethesda Soccer Club in Maryland in the Elite Clubs National League and entered Princeton ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 player in the Mid-Atlantic region. “When you are around the goal, just relaxing is always what I focus on.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford liked the way Lussi and Lazo worked together around the goal.

“They are both just dynamic,” said Shackford. “They are willing to take people on, they are also good at finishing. They  are very similar. They are both workers. They both know how to find space for themselves. They know how to take people on when they are dribbling. They are really confident and they are both gamers. To me, both of Taylor’s goals were upper class goals, they were great finishes.”

The Tigers displayed class all over the field in the win over Army. “We played really good soccer today,” asserted Shackford.

“We let the ball do the work and the speed of play was really good. I think you always worry about that second game, especially with Army having been in camp for so long. I think that we hung in there for two-thirds of the game with our fitness level and I think we got fresh legs in, you saw maybe a little drop in experience but I think they all hung in.”

Princeton’s experienced defense, spearheaded by senior co-captains Diane Metcalf-Leggette and Gabriella Guzman together with junior Gabrielle Ragazzo, played well all weekend.

“They did great; Diane is a good organizer back there,” said Shackford.

“I actually thought Gabby Ragazzo was the star of the game, she kept getting herself into the attack and we were able to switch the point of attack and get her out on the left side. The decision-making was great. You can’t put a price tag on what Guzman does for us. She is literally a rock.”

Junior goalie Darcy Hargadon was a rock for Princeton as she posted consecutive shutouts and stamped herself as first among equals in the four-way competition for the starting job.

“She did well,” said Shackford of Hargadon. “I give her a lot of credit; she organized well. She made saves when she had to. I know there weren’t a lot. I think for the most part she did really well.”

Heartened by her team’s play on opening weekend, Shackford believes that even better things are on the horizon.

“You never know what is going to happen; I am really pleased with our start,” said Shackford, whose team plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.

“Going forward, we need more focus on the speed of play. I think our soccer can be really exciting this year, once we get fitter. We can move the ball quicker and create a little more around the box. Their soccer was good today, I was impressed.”

Lussi, for her part, is excited to build on her superb opening weekend.

“I am trying to figure out each player’s position and what their strengths are,” said Lussi.

“I think that is coming together a little more but it is definitely good. Two wins is big. Going into Thursday’s game, I think we are really confident and ready to get another win.”

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Allison Evans and her teammates on the Princeton University field hockey team were frustrated heading into halftime last Saturday in their game against visiting Fairfield.

Even though third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton had outshot the Stags 12-0 over the first 35 minutes, the teams were knotted in a scoreless tie at intermission.

“I think it is just about mentality at that point,” said junior forward Evans. “We had a few balls that were just kind of sitting on the goal line and we couldn’t find a way to get them in. That’s more of a mental toughness and will to score than anything else because we definitely have the skill to. It was first weekend and less than a 24-hour turnaround from our first game (a 3-1 win over No. 10 Duke on Friday evening) so we definitely had to get the intensity up again.”

Falling behind 1-0 with 30:11 remaining in regulation, the Tigers picked up the intensity as they responded with three straight goals.

“Obviously going down first is always tough, you have to battle back and not only tie it but to go ahead,” said Evans, reflecting on the Princeton rally. “We got a corner and Teresa [Benvenuti] just nailed it at the top of the circle. I think pressure and being more aggressive is what opened up the goals for us.”

Evans showed her aggressiveness, scoring the third goal of that run as Princeton held on for a 4-3 victory over the scrappy Stags.

“My teammate Hailey [Reeves] had the ball on the left side on the baseline and she crossed and I laid my stick out and tipped it into the goalie and it bounced off and I lifted it over,” said Evans, reflecting on her goal. “You have got to get that rebound in.”

With all-time leading scorer Kat Sharkey having graduated after scoring 107 goals in her Tiger career, Evans is looking to pick up the scoring slack.

“I think all the strikers feel this way; it is our job to be effective in the circle,” said Evans, a native of Macungie, Pa. who scored a total of 23 goals in her first two seasons at Princeton.

“It is our job to score; it is our job to get corners. It is spread out among everyone; it is not just me.”

Evans liked the way the Tigers got the job done over opening weekend. “At the end of it, we are 2-0 and I think we are going to learn a lot after the coaches debrief us and look over the film,” said Evans, who picked up an assist in the win over Duke.

“Final results are great but we have a lot to learn and we can only get better from here. We definitely can’t complain about the two wins.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn was definitely proud of the way her team fought back after falling behind.

“I think we started attacking; when that happens, things start to open up,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on the second half rally.

“We have to be smart and be able to know when that penetrative moment is and make sure that we take it. I think that the team was really good at that. Teresa in the back was really good at playing those moments. I certainly give Fairfield a lot of credit for grinding the game out; it takes a lot of discipline to do that and I applaud them for being able to bring that for a majority of the game.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that her team struggled to close the game out as it surrendered two goals over the last 17 minutes of the contest.

“It is just about game management and that is something just being so early in the season we haven’t been able to focus on that as much,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals on the day from Benvenuti with Sydney Kirby and Evans adding the other tallies.

“I think the disorganization at the end is the product of just not being able to get everything in during preseason. We’ll be really slick as we move forward with closing out games and everyone understanding their role. We are not quite there yet. We are definitely shifting players around and we are trying to find ideal spots for lots of different players so it is a work in progress.”

A number of players stepped up in the win over Fairfield. “I thought our back three who kind of rotated in there were really steady; Kelsey Byrne, Cassidy Arner, Kate Ferrara, and Teresa were just really, really steady,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“Allison has been really good. Sydney Kirby’s work rate and Julia Reinprecht’s work rate were just phenomenal. They did so much just clearing space and being available, making space important. They really did a good job with that. Sydney has really been great this season.”

Surviving two tough challenges in the opening weekend was also a great step for Tigers, who have a bull’s eye on their backs after the NCAA championship campaign last fall.

“We felt in control of the Duke game which is a great feeling so early in the season against a quality opponent,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.

“I think in this game, for the most part, we felt in control. We just have to get returns. There are going to be games where you just have to persist. It is good to have these games. You have to perform every time you step on the field. I told the girls just now that is one of the great benefits of finishing the previous season as No. 1, you get everyone’s best. That is better than we could ever hope for because it will make us that much better so if we get that kind of effort from every opponent by the time we get to the end of the season we will be battle-tested.”

Evans, for her part, saw the victory over Duke as a harbinger of good things to come this season.

“I think the Duke game was great yesterday for our first game,” said Evans.

“We finally came together as a team, we improved our structure and spacing. We were working together. I think we are connecting pretty well, that will only get better.”

Jim Barlow knew that his Princeton University men’s soccer team faced a stern test when it opened its season at Fairleigh Dickinson last Friday night.

FDU brought a 2-0 record into the clash along with the confidence of having advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Showing some opening night jitters, Princeton fell behind 2-0 some 40 minutes into the contest.

Tiger head coach Barlow acknowledged that digging an early hole was not the formula for success against the Knights.

“You need to get the first goal against a team like that,” said Barlow, reflecting on the early deficit. “We couldn’t find an answer for their center halfbacks, they were both 6’4 or 6’5, good in the air and athletic.”

While Princeton fought gamely the rest of the way, it ended up falling 3-0.

“We didn’t play poorly,” said Barlow. “We were able to get the ball moving and keep them in their end. When we fell behind, we picked up the tempo and got the ball in their end more, creating some half-chances.”

Barlow noted that sophomores Nico Hurtado and Jack Hilger did create some positive energy for the Tigers.

“Nico and Jack came off the bench and helped us be more dynamic,” said Barlow, noting that Princeton lost stars Cameron Porter and Myles McGinley to leg injuries during the game. “Hilger was good at pressing up on the ball, he took a step forward.”

The Tigers did take a step back in one critical area of the game. “I think the big thing is we conceded two goals on the re-starts,” said Barlow.

“The first goal was on a corner, the ball was kicked high in the air and we didn’t have good communication. On the second goal, one of their center halves headed it in right off the corner.”

With the Tigers playing four games in a nine-day stretch starting with a game at Rutgers on September 13, Barlow hopes to get his squad headed in the right direction.

“We need to keep figuring things out,” added Barlow, whose team will host Seton Hall on September 15 in its home opener.

“We have a bunch of games in a row against some very good teams. We will get better and we would like to get some wins while we are improving. We need to be less naive on restarts and be better around the goal. We will have Thomas Sanner back so that should solidify us up front.”

The Tigers will need to get better quickly in order to hold their own in the clash with the Scarlet Knights, who are 1-2-1 and are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 5 Akron.

“Last year’s game with Rutgers is on our minds; I thought we played poorly,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 loss in the 2012 meeting between the local rivals.

“They came in here and really beat us up. This is a good opportunity to play against a good team and take a step forward.”

September 4, 2013
EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Princeton University field hockey team dealt with the absence of four key players who spent the year away from school training with the U.S. national program.

Despite not having the services of Kat Sharkey, Michelle Cesan, Katie Reinprecht, and Julia Reinprecht, a gritty Princeton team got the most out of what it had and won the Ivy League title that season.

Last fall, the program won its first-ever national championship and as the 2013 season approaches, the Tigers need to fill in some big holes left by graduation.

In assessing this year’s squad, Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn sees a parallel to the situation two falls ago.

“The 2011 season was really an interesting thing to go through, the girls had to dig deep within themselves to find their roles and provide leadership,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided the Tigers to a 21-1 record last fall in its run to the NCAA crown. “We definitely are likening that experience to this year.”

The squad’s experienced players have shown Holmes-Winn that they are not about to rest on their laurels.

“I have been very pleased with the team’s temperament,” asserted Holmes-Winn, whose squad is ranked No. 3 in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll and opens its title defense by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6.

“What we saw in the spring is that the players worked very hard and that carried over into the summer. Complacency is not part of our culture. These girls go to Princeton; they are overachievers in every way.”

The squad’s corps of seniors, Julia Reinprecht, Amanda Bird, Kelsey Byrnes, Christina Maida, and Allegra Mango, are setting the tone in terms of work ethic.

“The juniors from last year are stepping into the shoes of last year’s seniors,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They are leading by example and making sure that the players keep up to the standards that have been set in the program.”

It is going to be tough for the Tigers to match the standard set by the one-two punch of the graduated Katie Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey. Reinpreccht, the 2012 Longstreth/NFHCA Player of the Year, had 19 assists last season while Sharkey ended her career as the most prolific scorer in Princeton history as she totaled 107 goals in her career.

“We are going to miss what Katie was able to do in the midfield,” said Holmes-Winn. “She could draw defenders, escape defenders and put attackers in position to score easy goals. Kat Sharkey could create offense by herself.”

Senior standout Julia Reinprecht, an All-American and a member of the U.S. national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, should create opportunities for the Tigers this fall.

“Julia can go forward and split the defense,” said Holmes-Winn of the younger Reinprecht, who had 10 goals and six assists last fall.

“She has a high hockey IQ. She is a critical piece to both sides of the field. She played deep defense for us and we will move her higher up to midfield.”

The Tigers boast plenty of interchangeable pieces on the offensive end of the field.

“We are looking at Allison Evans (12 goals and five assists in 2012), Allegra Mango (1 assist) and Sydney Kirby (9 goals, 3 assists) to create chances on their own,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We have a system where the midfielders are expected to overlap. I am not sure where we are going to play Michelle Cesan (8 goals, 8 assists), probably at center mid or reset striker spot. We will have Kate Ferrara (1 assist) and Kelsey Byrne (3 assists) on wing. Julia Reinprecht along with freshmen Cat Caro and Annabeth Donovan will be in a holding role.

On the backline, the Tigers feature a trio of battle-tested performers. “The defense will be Cassidy Arner, Amanda Bird, and Teresa Benvenuti,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Teresa played center half for the U.S. this summer in the Junior World Cup and we will have her in the same place for us.”

While Princeton has a senior All-American goalie in place with senior Christina Maida, Holmes-Winn indicated that junior Julia Boyle and sophomore Anya Gersoff are in the mix to see action.

“We are really fortunate that we have three really good goalies; they push each other,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I don’t know who is going to start; it could depend on our opponent. Julia was right there last year and Anya competed to start some weeks. What separates them is not much, both Julia and Anya have a lot to offer. There will be a battle but the good thing is that I know they will support each other.”

The Tigers will be in for a battle when they face Duke (2-0) this Friday in the opener.

“Duke has a very talented collection of players,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team will also play Fairfield on September 7 in the opening weekend of the season.

“When they put it together, they can be dangerous. They will be a top team by the end of the season. I am looking forward to see how we do against them.”

Holmes-Winn, for her part, believes that Princeton can again emerge as one of the top teams by tournament time.

“It is always hard to say; we are going to work really hard,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I think we will be a really dynamic team on offense once everyone understands their role. That is going to take some time. I think we will be a good defensive team. A cornerstone of last year’s team was ability to stay in play and squeeze space. I think we can use numbers to our advantage.”

 

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer star Myles McGinley dribbles the ball in a game last season. Junior midfielder McGinley figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2013 campaign with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer star Myles McGinley dribbles the ball in a game last season. Junior midfielder McGinley figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2013 campaign with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Catalonia region of northeastern Spain is a soccer hotbed, boasting FC Barcelona, one of the top pro clubs in the world, and its legendary superstar Lionel Messi.

This past March, the Princeton University men’s soccer team spent nine days in the area and was fired up to go 3-1 in four friendly matches against Barcelona-area teams.

In the view of longtime Princeton head coach Jim Barlow, the journey should help the Tigers in several respects.

“It has been a long time since we went abroad, our last trip was 2003,” said Barlow.

“We decided to stay in the Barcelona area and that worked out well. We got settled and we got to see the sights. We toured during the day and had games at night. We got to see FC Barcelona play and Espanyol train. It was a great week of culture and sightseeing. It brought the team together. We were able to do more on the field. I think we are further along in the spring than usual.”

Barlow is hoping his team can go further this year than it did last fall when it went 8-6-2 overall and 4-1-2 in Ivy League action, taking third in the league and not getting invited to the NCAA tournament.

“Any time you go through the Ivy League with one loss, you expect to either win the league or be in the tournament,” said Barlow, a 1991 Princeton alum who is in his 18th season guiding the Tigers and has produced a 127-121-44 record with three Ivy crowns.

“We had an opportunity to do a little better in non-league games. In the league, we had nice wins over Dartmouth and Harvard but we let the Cornell game get away from us. The guys are hungry; the league is wide open.”

The Tigers feature a nice one-two punch at forward in junior Cameron Porter (2 goals and 4 assists in 2012) and sophomore Thomas Sanner (4 goals, 6 assists).

“Porter has so many athletic gifts that sometimes he tries to do too much,” said Barlow, noting that sophomore Nico Hurtado, senior Dylan Bowman and junior Julian Griggs should see time at forward.

“He goes fast and gets out of control. He needs to be on the same page with the midfield. He has had two good seasons and is a real scoring threat. Sanner has matured. He makes good runs and he is a good finisher. He is strong and physical.”

Barlow believes the midfield will be a strong unit for the Tigers. “We have a bunch of guys in the mix,” said Barlow, noting that junior Joe Saitta, freshman Brian Costa, freshman Bryan Windsor, freshman Vikram Pothuri,  sophomore Jack Hilger, sophomore Andrew Doar, junior Alex Wetterman, and junior Myles McGinley have been playing in middle of the field. “We have a lot of depth; separating the eight midfielders is going to be hard.”

McGinley has emerged as first among equals, according to Barlow. “Myles has established himself as the guy who we can depend on day in, day out in the central midfield,” asserted Barlow.

Princeton boasts a trio of three dependable seniors on defense in Chris Benedict, Patrick O’Neil, and Billy McGuinness.

“It will be O’Neil and Benedict out wide with McGuinness providing a good presence centrally,” added Barlow.

“I am not sure who is going to be playing with McGuinness in the center. Andrew Mills and Josh Miller are vying for that spot. Losing Mark Linnville [a 4-time first-team All-Ivy performer] is tough; he did so much organizing and communicating. We need the guys to step up leadership-wise with their communication.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan has been stepping up for the Tigers during the preseason.

“Seth has been great so far, he has been our most consistent and reliable player,” said Barlow,

“Ben Hummel has pushed himself athletically and he is getting to balls he didn’t get to in the past. Freshman Josh Haberman has looked good. I am happy with our depth there. Seth is No. 1 right now.”

The Tigers will get pushed hard in their season opener as they play at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6.

“They went deep into the NCAAs last year, I think they lost to North Carolina in overtime in the Sweet 16,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 Knights.

“It is always an even, hard game when we play them. We beat them 1-0 in the second game of the Princeton Invitational last year. This is going to be a different atmosphere at their place on a Friday night. We are excited. They beat Drexel in their opener so they are off to a good start.

Barlow believes that his team can produce another exciting season. “I would like to think that we can do really well in the league,” said Barlow.

“We always go into the season feeling that way. We have to continue to improve everyday in training. We need to develop good chemistry and play well together.  How we handle plays in front of both goals will be critical. Last year, we had trouble scoring and the year before we had trouble stopping people. We are concerned right now about where the goals are going to come from for us. We are cautiously optimistic.”

 

GIFT OF GAB: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Gabriella Guzman controls the ball in action last season. Princeton is depending on senior co-captain Guzman to be a force in the midfield as it looks to defend its Ivy League title. The Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GIFT OF GAB: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Gabriella Guzman controls the ball in action last season. Princeton is depending on senior co-captain Guzman to be a force in the midfield as it looks to defend its Ivy League title. The Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the 2012 season, Julie Shackford was comforted by the fact that her Princeton University women’s soccer team included eight seniors.

Asserting that teams who excel typically have a strong core of seniors, the Tigers added credence to Shackford’s notion, going 14-4-1 overall, 7-0 in Ivy League play, and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

In assessing the upcoming campaign, Shackford acknowledges that the departure of last year’s seniors has left a huge void.

“It is a hard class to replace on so many levels,” said Shackford of the group which had five players earn All-Ivy recognition last fall, led by Jen Hoy, the league’s Player of the Year.

The Tigers do possess some high-level skills at the forward position, starting with junior Lauren Lazo, a first-team All-Ivy pick last fall after tallying 11 goals and five assists.

“We need Lazo to pick up Jen’s slack; we are looking for a breakout season from her,” said Shackford, who is entering her 19th season guiding the program and  has a record of 189-103-22 with six Ivy titles and 8 NCAA appearances.

“She was a legitimate threat in the latter half of last season; she scored a lot of goals. We have two other players who are coming back from ACL injuries and are playing phenomenally. Melissa Downey is a junior who is looking really good. Erika Hoglund was just starting to come around last year as a junior and got injured in the Yale game. She has been a leader in preseason. The three of them are a nice combination. Liana Cornaccio is back; she is good on throw-ins and is a presence. We have a freshman, Tyler Lussi, who is slight but strong and fast. We have some good options up top.”

Princeton has some nice options in the midfield, featuring senior co-captain Gabriella Guzman, together with sophomore Jessica Lee, junior Jessica Haley and a pair of promising freshmen, Nicole Loncar and Jess McDonough.

“Gabby Guzman holds the ball really well and wins every 50/50 ball,” said Shackford.

“She is so strong and is a good leader. She is really hard-nosed in those tough Ivy League games. Jess Lee played well last year, she sprained her ankle so she isn’t training right now. We have a player who has been on the U-17 and U-20 teams for Canada, Nicole Loncar, and she will play in the center. Jess McDonough is a shore kid who played for the Wildcats and she will be in the mix. We have Jess Haley back, the Ivy League assist leader last year and she can play in the midfield or up top.”

On defense, the Tigers welcome back a trio of battle-tested veterans. “We have Diane Metcalf-Leggette, Kacie Kergides, and Gabby Ragazzo back,” said Shackford, noting that senior co-captain Metcalf-Leggette, an honorable mention All-Ivy choice in 2012, is a vocal leader along the backline.

“The frontrunner to play in the other spot is Fiona McKenna, who also plays hockey. She is a phenomenal athlete and is tough as nails.”

Shackford acknowledges that the graduation of second-team All-Ivy goalie Claire Pinciaro has left a big hole.

“The big question mark is in goal, we have four players and there is no clear-cut starter yet,” said Shackford, who is looking at senior Cecilia DiCaprio, junior Darcy Hargadon, junior MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti, and freshman Hannah Winner. “We may have to do a rotation with two of them.”

In Shackford’s view, the Tigers can work around the uncertainty at goalie. “If we can defend really well as a team, I think we have enough firepower to outscore teams,” said Shackford.

“This group has potential; I expect us to contend for a title. We have seen some good things in the scrimmages so far but we are not as well oiled as last year when he had all those veterans and everyone knew their spot.”

As the Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8, the team will be in a tough spot.

“Army has been training since July 1; Richmond has had some mixed results so far but historically they always have some good forwards,” said Shackford.

“Every first game is going to be a challenge for us. I am happy to be at home; it is easier to work out the kinks when you are not worrying about traveling.”

 

August 28, 2013
STICKING CLOSE: Andrea Jenkins, left, goes after the ball in a game last fall during her senior season with the Princeton Day School field hockey team. Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field for the Princeton University field hockey squad for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING CLOSE: Andrea Jenkins, left, goes after the ball in a game last fall during her senior season with the Princeton Day School field hockey team. Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field for the Princeton University field hockey squad for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2009, Mariel Jenkins headed to Harvard to join the school’s women’s lacrosse team after a stellar career at Princeton Day School.

Two years later, her younger sister, Sydney, followed in her footsteps, becoming a member of the Crimson field hockey team in the wake of her brilliant play for PDS.

So when the youngest of the three Jenkins sisters, Andrea, emerged as a standout for the Panther field hockey squad, her college path seemed clear.

But while the two older Jenkins girls thrived at Harvard with Mariel making second-team All-Ivy this spring in her senior season and Sydney appearing in all 16 games last fall, tallying a goal and an assist, they weren’t pushy when their baby sister started looking at colleges.

“My sisters didn’t pressure me about Harvard,” said the youngest Jenkins, known as A.J. during her PDS career.

“They wanted me to go where I was happy and they said they would be supportive of wherever that was.”

Jenkins didn’t have to go far to find a school that would make her happy as she committed to join the Princeton University field hockey team last fall.

“I was open to any school, I was grateful to have schools interested in me,” said Jenkins, a four-time All-Prep performer at PDS who served as a team captain and earned MVP honors as a senior when the Panther advanced to the state Prep B championship game.

“In Princeton, I had a school where I loved the campus, the coach, and the team. I was exposed to the program through summer camps. I did an official visit; I wanted to see what it was like to spend a night in the dorm and go to some classes. It balances an engaging academic experience and highly competitive athletics. The girls on the team are great, they are so nice.”

Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field with the Princeton girls for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice.

While her older sisters were supportive of Jenkins’ choice to buck the Harvard trend, she acknowledges that her decision to join Princeton has sparked a family rivalry.

“My sisters were so excited, they were happy for me,” said Jenkins. “We do have some trash talking. I do have my mom [Princeton alum Lisa Gillespie Jenkins] on my side but she cheers for everybody.”

Since the end of her senior season at PDS season, Jenkins has been working hard to get ready for her Princeton debut.

“I have been playing for the Jersey Intensity; I was involved in club championships in July in Virginia Beach,” said Jenkins, who has played with the Jersey Intensity club program the last five years, helping the squad win gold at the National Festival in 2009 and 2012, while medaling at the Disney tournaments from 2009-12.

“I am also doing the Princeton conditioning program each week to build up stamina and strength.”

With the powerful Tigers boasting such All-American performers as Julia Reinprecht, Michelle Cesan, and Christina Maida along with last Year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year Teresa Benvenuti, Jenkins knows that she will have to raise the level of her game.

“I am ready to be coached by the best and play with some of the greatest players in college field hockey,” said Jenkins, whose speed and stick skills should see her play in the midfield and at striker. “When you play with players of that high level, you get better.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn has had plenty of exposure to Jenkins’ high-level play over the years as she noted in comments on the Princeton sports website welcoming the team’s freshman class.

“Andrea lives down the road so I’ve had the pleasure of admiring her abilities up close for many years,” said Holmes-Winn, who is entering her 11th season at the helm of the Tigers, boasting a 131-57 record and an NCAA Final 4 appearance and nine Ivy titles to go along with last year’s national title, the first in program history.

“She is a fluid attacker with pace, field sense, and the ability to eliminate. Andrea comes from a family of athletes; her dad played football at Duke and her sisters, Sydney and Mariel play field hockey and lacrosse, respectively at Harvard. Her mom is also a Princetonian.”

As Jenkins looks forward to Princeton’s season opener against visiting Duke on September 6, she is ready to keep her nose to the grindstone and contribute in any way needed.

“Honestly, I am excited to be part of the team,” said Jenkins. “I will work as hard as I can in the preseason and see what happens from there. Coach Arndt [PDS field hockey coach Tracey Arndt] said you always want to be the hardest worker as a freshman.”