November 18, 2020

Senior Goalie Kunkle Posts Shutout in Finale As PDS Boys’ Soccer Defeats Franklin 2-0

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer goalie Trevor Kunkle tracks the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior Kunkle posted a shutout in his last high school appearance as PDS defeated Franklin High 2-0 in its season finale. The victory left the Panthers with a 6-5-1 record this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Trevor Kunkle and his fellow seniors on the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team rose to the occasion last Thursday as the Panthers hosted Franklin High in their final high school game.

With goalie Kunkle posting a shutout and classmate Aidan McChesney notching the winning goal in the first half, PDS earned a 2-0 win to finish the fall at 6-5-1.

“It was definitely a big one, we have a great group of guys,” said Kunkle, reflecting on the finale.

“It is just sad that it is the last game and we won’t be able to put on this jersey again. I am glad that we ended up with a win.”

The Panther defense tightened up after squandering a late lead in a 4-3 loss to Bordentown two days earlier.

“In the last game we kind of folded toward the end,” said Kunkle.

“I am proud of them, they really stepped up and helped me out. I was able to do my job.”

Having started the season sharing time in the net with classmate Bruno Cucchi, Kunkle took over the starting job down the stretch.

“Everyone really progressed in their play to the end of the season,” said Kunkle.

“I wasn’t a starter at the beginning, I was splitting halves with the other goalie. Since he is out, I really had to step up.”

PDS head coach Ollie Hilliker credited his players with stepping up collectively in the finale.

“I think we played the best we played all season, ironically it is the last game,” said Hilliker.

“I thought the first half we played tremendously. The first half was some really, really good football; we really dominated the game. The second half got a little scrappy and the quality wasn’t quite as good. They performed better in the second half and made it more difficult. The rain came in and made it a little scrappy. I am very happy with the performance and the result.”

Seeing his seniors go out with a win made Hilliker very happy. “They are a great group of boys, I gave known those boys since they were in middle school here,” said Hilliker, whose Class of 2021 includes Will Sedgley, Jacques Hughes, Fabio Yales, Alexander Liu Nowakoski, Mark Santamaria, Stephen Chukumba, Hector Capeilleres, Cucchi, McChesney, and Kunkle.

“I have seen them from being in middle school all the way through to graduation. It is a great class and a talented class. I hope they are going to go on and do great things in life outside of soccer as well as in it. I am really pleased that they got the win to finish out.”

In Hilliker’s view, Kunkle has done some great things in his final campaign with the program.

“Trevor is steady, super calm, and super composed all the time,” added Hilliker.

“He does a great job there and we feel confident and comfortable when he is playing.”

The game also marked the swan song at PDS for Hilliker, who is stepping down from the program after a superb five-year run which saw the Panthers win the state Prep B title in 2016.

“It has been phenomenal, it has been great,” said Hilliker, who is leaving the program to spend more time with his young sons and continue his work with club soccer.

“I am still going to be a supporter of the school and the team. I will help them with recruitment and I will be around next year when I can. I am not going to be a stranger, I will support them as much as I can. You want to finish on a high point. It is nice for everyone to finish on a positive note there and feel good about the end of the season.”

Kunkle, for his part, believes that PDS enjoyed a positive fall, thriving in a season limited by COVID-19 restrictions.

“We started off pretty slow; it took us some time to get into the groove with the winning,” said Kunkle.

“From there, I think we won five in a row. This was a good season, we made the most out of it. We thought we weren’t going to have a season at the beginning.”