Unable to Extend Prep B Title Streak Due to COVID, PDS Girls’ Soccer Still Aiming for Memorable Fall
IN TRAINING: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team go through some drills at a recent preseason training session. The Panthers will open their 2020 campaign when they host Monroe on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
While the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team won’t get the chance this fall to go for its seventh straight state Prep B title as the tournament has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it could still be a memorable season for the squad.
“From a coaching standpoint, it is challenging because you are not playing in a tournament so you don’t have any hardware on the line,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta, who guided the Panthers to a 16-3-1 record in 2019 as the program won its sixth straight state Prep B title and also advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.
“One of our goals every year is to defend our crown but the girls know that won’t happen this year so they just want to keep up the competitiveness of the program. Our No. 1 goal this year is to complete an entire season. They know that everybody has to participate and do their part as far as all of the protocols. They want to win as many games as possible and be competitive.”
The squad’s core of seniors is setting a positive tone as they look forward to competing in their final high school season.
“We have six seniors and with the spring season being canceled, they obviously had concerns because some of that impacted those who played spring sports,” said Trombetta, who team starts the 2020 season by hosting Monroe on October 1.
“They don’t want to go through a high school senior year without playing. Once we got the green light, they were really excited. They are all about playing this year.”
In order to keep playing, the PDS players and coaches know they have to exercise caution and follow the COVID-19 protocols.
“The girls are masked up walking to the field and when they are on the bench,” said Trombetta.
“When they are not doing any physical activities on the field or scrimmaging, they will wear their masks on the bench. The only time the masks are coming off is when they are on the field. The coaches have to wear a mask 100 percent of the time. We have to clean the equipment after every practice, there are a lot of guidelines. It is a different season.”
Heading into the 2020 campaign, the Panthers appear to have a lot of firepower in their forward unit which features senior Kelly Beal, sophomore Kirsten Ruf, senior Vanessa Devin, and freshman Adriana Salzano.
“We have got options up top, Kelly is looking really good,” said Trombetta of Beal, who recently committed to attend Williams College and play for its Division III women’s soccer program.
“She is sharp right now early on, we like what we are seeing from her. She has pace, she has good foot skills and she can finish. She gives us that offensive weapon that helps when we need a goal.”
In the central midfield, PDS will feature three veterans in seniors Jules Romano and Brit Chia along with junior Ali Surace.
“Jules is a solid player offensively and defensively,” said Trombetta.
“She is our box-to-box midfielder that can take
control of the game. She gives us a lot of options. Brit tore her ACL in her sophomore year and missed her entire sophomore year. Last year she was trying to recover but it was a challenge for her. So we are hoping she is back to her old self. You will see Ali inside as well.”
On the flanks, junior Aislynn Macco and sophomore Grace Romano, the younger sister of Jules, will provide skill and pace.
“On the outside you have Aislynn who had had a terrific year as a sophomore last season,” said Trombetta.
“She was one of the leaders in assists and she is a smart player with the ball at her feet. She has a very good soccer IQ and makes the right decisions. Grace is looking pretty good on the outside of the field. She has tremendous speed so she will give us that on the outside and we will have the two Romanos out there.”
Trombetta has some battle-tested veterans on his back line with senior Anna Ellwood and junior Cailyn Jones at center back along with senior Sophia Miranda and junior Tyler Robinson on the wings.
“Anna committed to Franklin & Marshall; we are going to look for a lot from her in the back as far as controlling the defense,” added Trombetta.
“Cailyn had a terrific year last year. Sophie is tough and she will get up the field for us as well and has a good left foot. Tyler is aggressive and her fitness looks really good. We are happy with what we have right now. We are looking good back there, they are a solid group of returning players.”
Those experienced defenders have helped pave the way as junior Veronica Vogelman steps up at goalie after backing up Riley Felsher last year.
“Veronica will probably be our starting goalkeeper,” said Trombetta.
“She is aggressive; she will make the difficult save. We are looking forward to seeing what she is going to bring to the team. It seems like the chemistry between the goalkeeper and the defense is looking pretty strong early on.”
Cobbling together a schedule of 12 games should give PDS the chance to develop chemistry collectively.
“There was a point where we went from seven games to three games but now we are up to 12,” said Trombetta.
“We are playing teams that we never played before like Monroe, Hillsborough, Camden Catholic, St Rose, and Mater Dei Prep. We are going to have to be road warriors this season because we have eight on the road. From where we were with three games to get it up to 12, took a lot of work. I was reaching out on the phone to a lot of coaches to give us a game. You just hope to get some sense of normalcy in a season like this.”