Following in Footsteps of Local Standouts, PHS Alum Ratzan Joining Tufts Men’s Soccer
FULL SPEED AHEAD: Alex Ratzan races up the field last fall in his senior season for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team. Star midfielder Ratzan, who helped PHS share the Mercer County Tournament crown with Pennington in 2016, is currently going through preseason practice for his freshman season with the Tufts University men’s soccer team. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Helped by a pipeline of Princeton area players, the Tufts University men’s soccer team has ascended to the top of Division III soccer.
With contributions from Rui Pinheiro and Maxime Hoppenot of Princeton Day School, former Princeton High stars Zach Halliday and Kevin Halliday, along with Peter Lee-Kramer, a Princeton native who played his high school soccer at Phillips Andover, Tufts won the NCAA Division III national title in both 2014 and 2016.
Now, recently graduated PHS boys’ soccer standout Alex Ratzan is looking to continue that tradition as he has matriculated to Tufts and is starting preseason training with the Jumbos this week.
For Ratzan, getting promoted to the PHS varsity late in his freshman season helped put him on the path to college soccer.
“I played a full season of freshman soccer and then at the end of the season, I got called up and played varsity,” said Ratzan.
“That was the highest level of soccer I had ever played at that moment. It gave me the opportunity to really develop my skills. After that, I participated in an academy program in England for a week and then I moved to a higher level club team.”
By senior year, Ratzan was a star midfielder and a co-captain of the Little Tigers along with classmate Andrew Goldsmith.
“You are playing with your classmates and your teammates,” said Ratzan, who helped PHS share the Mercer County Tournament crown with Pennington last fall as it posted a 17-1-2 final record.
“You grow closer that way so a big part of it is leadership. Andrew and I felt like we had a big role our senior year. We wanted to score as many goals as possible and do whatever we could to help the team win while also teaching the younger players.”
After considering a number of Ivy League and top Division III programs as he looked for a team to join at the next level, Ratzan narrowed his search to three schools.
“It came down to Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Tufts; all of which were willing to give me a roster spot with different levels of support based on the school,” said Ratzan.
“When I had my final three, I was getting a lot of advice from other people. Coming from Princeton High, I have been very fortunate to have academic opportunities and that helped so much.”
The influence of the Halliday bothers and their family helped steer Ratzan to Tufts.
“I talked to both of them on the phone and their parents,” said Ratzan.
“It just came down to the kind of people on the teams and how the school part played into it.”
In order to get ready for college soccer, Ratzan starting training with the MatchFit club right after PHS was knocked out of the state sectional tournament last November.
“A week or so later I was back on the field with another team and it was very helpful for me,” said Ratzan.
“It was a great coaching staff there, it allowed me to play and really improve. There are over 20 committed college soccer players in the Class of 2017. I was competing with high level kids and coaches that knew what would help me play at the next level as well.”
With the Tufts preseason slated to start on August 28, Ratzan was chomping at the bit to get on the field with his new teammates.
“I am overwhelmingly excited to be playing at the next level,” said Ratzan, noting that the Jumbos were voted No. 1 nationally in the Division III preseason poll.
“I have done everything I can to be in the best shape, physically, technically, and mentally. It is definitely going to be a step up, no matter what I do.”
Realizing that he is joining a powerhouse, Ratzan is ready to assume a supporting role at the outset.
“We are graduating five or six guys and we are bringing in eight, it is a very strong class,” said Ratzan.
“I am trying to play forward or outside mid. They have very strong outside mids and forwards but there is room. The NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) is a league where there is so much running at every position. There is a lot of subbing so if I can be a guy that can play for 20 minute spans at a time, that would be great for me.”