December 9, 2020

Although Hun Girls’ Soccer Went 0-4-1, it Enjoyed a Memorable 2020 Campaign

HIGH CHARACTER: Hun School girls’ soccer player Anna Hyson goes after the ball in a 2019 game. Senior co-captain Hyson showed her leadership this fall as she moved from the midfield to goalie due to injury and stabilized the Hun defense in her new role. The Raiders posted a 0-4-1 record in a 2020 season abbreviated by COVID-19 issues. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Hun School girls’ soccer team didn’t win a game this fall, its players made 2020 a special campaign.

“We had a shared joy that we experienced during the struggle,” said Hun head coach Jenn Barrett, whose team posted a 0-4-1 record in a season limited by COVID-19 concerns.

“We had those bonding moments as we went through this. We played Pennington twice but we scored five goals against them. We stepped up. It was going into battle together and making those shared memories.”

After suffering a pair of losses to both Pennington and Princeton Day School, Hun ended the 2020 campaign with a 2-2 tie against Conwell Egan (Pa.).

“Conwell Egan was a school we had never played before so that was exciting,” said Barrett, who got goals in the draw from junior Olivia D’Aulerio and freshman Zoey Palmer.

“It was definitely a game we could have won so that was slightly frustrating, but we will take a tie.”

Coming into the season, Barrett realized her team was taking on some tough foes.

“I knew what we were getting into with our schedule, having to play Pennington twice and PDS twice,” said Barrett, whose squad fell 7-2 and 6-3 to Pennington and lost 6-1 and 6-0 to PDS.

“They are two of the best teams in the entire area. They both beat Hunterdon Central, which was absolutely amazing. In a normal, typical season, PDS and Pennington are our two hardest games, so to have to have them be four of our five games was hard.”

Despite those hard contests, Barrett saw positives in the way her players battled.

“That is what we took from it, in my speech at the end of the second Pennington game, we lost 6-3 and I said to the team, ‘listen Hunterdon Central couldn’t even score on them and we had three goals against them,’” recalled Barrett.

“We definitely focused on the little things, the highlights and the positives of any challenge we faced.”

In dealing with those challenges, the Hun players showed flexibility.

“So many of the girls had to play in positions that they were not comfortable with or used to playing in because of injury,” said Barrett.

“We had some freshmen that, with their talent, may have played center mid for their club team but they are not playing center mid here. I had to put them at center back or I had to put them up front, something that they are not used to.”

Senior Anna Hyson and Palmer exemplified that attitude. After goalie Palmer suffered an arm injury, midfielder Hyson moved to goal. Palmer, for her part, played in the field, scoring a pair of goals.

“Anna has committed to Skidmore to play lacrosse, she is an extremely talented athlete,” said Barrett.

“She was courageous enough, kind enough, and enough of a good teammate to step in goal for us for our remaining three games. She did an amazing job, she actually made some spectacular saves. In addition we found out that Zoey Palmer is a very good field player. She has great foot skills. That really worked out for us, even though it was definitely not ideal. We used her to the full capacity and she was great.”

While things weren’t ideal in a season impacted by COVID protocols, the Raiders pressed forward.

“We were so thankful to get to play, they 100 percent rose to the occasion,” asserted Barrett.

“The amount of change that everyone was faced with was immeasurable; not being able to use the locker room, not being able to go into the athletic center at all, wearing masks the entire time at practice. All of these things were such challenges and they really all rose to the occasion. I was very proud of them.”

In working through those changes, the Hun players honed their intensity.

“We really worked hard to compete every day at practice because we didn’t have many actual competitions,” said Barrett.

“We worked hard to have that fire at practice. That was really helpful and I think will continue into upcoming seasons. Having the practices be more competitive and more intense was a great lesson we learned.”

Barrett credited her senior captains, Hyson and Chloe Hill, with setting the tone on a daily basis.

“Chloe was injured after the first game and she was no longer allowed to participate in games but she still continued to lead,” said Barrett, whose senior group also included Abigail Trimble and Ashleigh Patasnick.

“Anna took the lead on the field with her example, her play, and through motivation, which was amazing.”

With so many younger players seeing action this fall, Barrett sees amazing things ahead for the program.

“We brought in seven freshmen, I am beyond excited about our potential for the next two years,” said Barrett.

“We have an extremely young team. As of now, we have five sophomores, seven freshmen, and five juniors. It is a great mix.”

That mix helped spark the team’s defensive unit down the stretch this fall.

“My back four defenders were basically all freshmen and sophomores by the end of the season,” said Barrett.

“We moved Toni Olaleye. She is a sophomore and I had her playing up front. She is extremely fast and midway through the season we put her at center back. She was absolute lights out. She is such a team player, she does anything that is needed. We also had a freshman Olivia Spektor, and she has been outstanding. She is a very talented player, she has got great size and is a very versatile player. We had another freshman, Hannah Yanni, who typically does not play defense back there. I would switch on and off with Tessa Falcone, another freshman, and junior Kiki Maurer, who we would put back there at times.”

Just being back on the field was a plus for the Hun coaches and players.

“Another thing we did really, really well is that we stuck together, we ignored as much as possible what was beyond our control,” said Barrett.

“I had people outside of school ask ‘is this all worth it for five games,’ and it is. You would go to practice and you would be this ball of stress. You would be wearing the mask all day, everything was different. You left practice feeling so much better.”

As a result, coming together on a daily basis became a highlight for everyone involved.

“You are so separated now at school,” added Barrett. “When you could have that opportunity to be with your group of people with a shared interest, with a love of soccer and a love of our team, they really appreciated it. It was having those moments to focus on something that was in your control. You had that focus of what you were going to do at practice, you were in control of how hard you worked, how intense you made it, and how you competed.”