November 27, 2019

Hun Boys’ Soccer Overcame Shaky Start, Rising to the Occasion in Postseason Play

ALEX THE GREAT: Hun School boys’ soccer goalie Alex Donahue sends the ball up the field in a game this fall. Junior Donahue emerged as a star for Hun, earning All-Prep A first team honors. The Raiders advanced to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals and the state Prep A semis on the way to posting a 6-10-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In the early stages of the 2019 season, the Hun School boys’ soccer team didn’t look like it was destined to do any damage in postseason play.

The Raiders suffered three straight losses in the first two weeks of the season, getting outscored 10-5 in those setbacks. 

Undeterred by the shaky start, Hun regrouped and ended up advancing to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals and the state Prep A semis.

“It is the first time we won a county game and a state game in the same year a while,” said Hun head coach Pat Quirk, whose team ended 2019 with a final record of 6-10-3. “It was good for the younger guys to see what it takes to win in those tournaments.”

Two of the squad’s older guys, senior Brian Spencer and junior Amar Anand came through in a dramatic 3-2 overtime win against Blair in the opening round of the Prep A tourney.

“It was a back and forth game; it was a battle,” recalled Quirk.

“We finished well in OT, Brian got the game winning goal. He played in the back a lot but when we needed to push forward, he was a guy who always wanted to be forward and wanted to be up there because he thought he could score. Amar scored the tying goal to put us in OT.”

Junior goalie Alex Donahue, who was in his first season as a starter for the Raiders, came up big in the win over Blair, making 13 saves.

“Alex was great for us all year, he kept us in a lot of games,” said Quirk of Donahue, who earned All-Prep A first team honors.

In the Prep A semis, Donahue came up big in a losing cause as Hun gave perennial powerhouse and eventual champion St. Benedict’s a battle before succumbing 2-0.

“The defense played very well, we limited their shots but they still had quite a few,” said Quirk.

“Alex made a lot of very good saves. We went into that game with a really good game plan of what we were going to do defensively, knowing that we would be playing a lot of defense against them. The kids really bought into that and stuck to the game plan.”

While Quirk was encouraged by how his players rose to the occasion down the stretch, he acknowledged that Raiders should have had won more games this fall.

“We had some good wins, beating Blair in the regular season and PDS,” said Quirk, whose team edged Hopewell Valley on penalty kicks in the first round of the MCT after the teams had played to a scoreless draw through regulation and overtime.

“I don’t think we lived up to our full potential unfortunately but a lot of younger guys got some minutes and a really good learning experience.”

Quirk credited seniors Jake Marcin, Brian Spencer, Tishe Olaleye, Gibson Campbell, Luke McManimon, and Chris Antar with getting a lot out of their potential.

“Jake and Brian playing center back for us, controlled the back line,” said Quirk, who saw Olaleye earn All-Prep A first team honors while Spencer was an honorable mention selection.

“Tishe was good in the center mid position and Gibson was always getting dangerous, whether he was cutting in to shoot or getting out wide. Luke was a workhorse who raised the level of play. Chris was a guy that started and came off the bench. He gave us a lot of energy.”

With a core of returners featuring Donahue, Anand, Jack Tarzy, Aden Spektor, Lucas Mazzoni, and John Balian, Hun should be a dangerous team going forward.

“Alex is huge piece to return; Amar is key, whether he is playing at center mid or in more of an attacking role,” added Quirk.

“Jack played all over the place again this year. Aden was new for us, he played a little bit last year and he stepped into some nice roles. Mazzoni earned a starting spot as an outside back, I think he is going to be phenomenal in the back for the next two years. Balian also earned his starting spot as an outside back so returning two outside backs is good.”

In Quirk’s view, those players need to focus on coming together as one unit and increasing their work rate to do good things next year.

“When we won, we were playing as a team, really controlling the ball and sharing it,” said Quirk.

“When we lost, there were guys trying to do too much on their own. I think they saw what the intensity has to be during practice and how good practices need to be to get results in games.”