PDS Girls’ Soccer Wins 5th Straight Prep B Title, Lifted by Smukler Beating Illness to End with a Bang
DRIVE FOR FIVE: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer Brooke Smukler, left, goes after a ball in a game earlier this fall. Last Wednesday, senior forward Smukler, who had been sidelined earlier this fall with mono, ended her career with a bang, scoring two goals as top-seeded PDS defeated second-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy 4-2 in the state Prep B title game. It was the fifth straight Prep B title for the Panthers, who ended the fall at 14-4-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
In mid-October, Brooke Smukler was diagnosed with mononucleosis and feared that she might be sidelined for the rest of her senior season on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team.
At the time, doctors advised Smukler that she was likely to be out for around four weeks. But getting cleared after two weeks, Smukler got a chance to return to action for the postseason.
“I wasn’t expecting to come back, so being back was really exciting for me,” said Smukler. “I just worked hard to get back to where I was before.”
Last Wednesday, star forward Smukler produced a very exciting end to her career, scouring two goals to help top-seeded PDS defeat second-seeded Montclair Kimberly Academy 4-2 in the state Prep B championship game.
Smukler’s first tally came with 39 seconds left in the first half and gave PDS a 2-0 lead at the break.
“Jules [Romano] had the ball; she made a really good look and I came running down,” said Smukler.
“She split it right through to me on the side and I slid it in the left corner. That was a really nice pass on her part.”
The Panthers broke open the contest early in the second half with Smukler crashing the net for her second goal with 36:23 left in regulation and Ariana Jones scoring 13 minutes later as PDS built a 4-0 cushion and weathered a late surge by MKA to win its fifth straight Prep B crown and end the fall with a 14-4-1 record.
In reflecting on her second tally, Smukler credited Jones with making a brilliant feed to set her up for the point blank shot.
“We work on that a lot in practice; crosses and balls in the air,” said Smukler. “That was definitely a result of just working on that and getting it in the goal any way we can. It doesn’t have to be pretty.”
Achieving the goal of an outright title and a fifth Prep B crown was a sweet result for Smukler and her teammates. “It feels good, I know we all wanted it a lot today,” said Smukler.
PDS head coach Pat Trombetta felt great seeing his players come through.
“You are winning as co-champs and you’re standing here and you don’t know how to react,” said Trombetta. “But today, we can celebrate. It is a great feeling and I am really proud of the girls.”
Trombetta liked the way PDS reacted when MKA cut the lead to 4-2 with 17:46 remaining in regulation.
“When I saw the two goals on the board, I thought it was enough to get the job done,” said Trombetta.
“They started throwing numbers forward and we took the foot off the gas a little bit. We just had to get composed again and use time management from there on.”
Senior stars Smukler and defender Kelsey Lane displayed composure, leading the way in their finale.
“With Brooke coming off of mono, we didn’t know if she had enough energy today to play,” said Trombetta, whose senior group also includes midfielder Charlotte Meyercord.
“This was really her first game back after being out for a few weeks, and what a way to go out in style. Kelsey played a hell of a season in the back as our center back. I am really happy for the seniors; they earned a championship all four years they have been with the program.”
In Trombetta’s view, the fifth straight Prep B crown is a testament to the skill and tenacity of his players over the years.
“It means a lot,” said Trombetta, who also guided the Panthers to the Mercer County Tournament title in 2013.
“I have been blessed to have the talented players that believe in our system and come here to play and play hard.”
Smukler, for her part, feels blessed to go out in style. “All of us went out on a strong note” said Smukler.
“Today is a result of all of us playing for each other. Everyone wanted this for the three seniors and all of us just wanted it for each other. It was a team effort and we really played with our hearts today.”