Although COVID-19 Pandemic Put World on Pause, Local Sports Teams Still Made 2020 a Memorable Year
MOMENT OF TRIUMPH: Princeton University wrestler Travis Stefanik celebrates after he topped Cornell’s Jonathan Loew 10-4 at 184 pounds to clinch victory in a 19-13 triumph by Princeton over the Big Red on February 9 at Jadwin Gym. The victory snapped Princeton’s 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and clinched the Tiger program’s first Ivy League title since 1986. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As 2020 headed into March, local sports teams were enjoying a memorable winter campaign.
Over at Princeton University, the wrestling team produced an historic breakthrough, edging Cornell 19-13 to snap a 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and earn the program’s first Ivy League title since 1986. The Tigers women’s hockey team made some history of its own, winning the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey championship and posting a 26-6-1 record. At Jadwin Gym, Carla Berube made a stunning debut as the head coach of the Tiger women’s basketball program, guiding Princeton to a 26-1 overall record and a 14-0 Ivy campaign with the squad rising to No. 17 in national polls.
On the high school scene, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team produced a comeback for the ages in the Mercer County Tournament final. Trailing six-time defending champion Hun 5-0 in the second period, PHS rallied to pull out a dramatic 7-5 win and earn the program’s first county crown since 2011. The Stuart Country Day School hoops team emerged as one of the best squads in New Jersey, winning its third straight state Prep B title and advancing to the MCT final for the first time in program history on the way to posting a 21-7 record. Featuring a gritty group of battle-tested veterans, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team went on the road and defeated Doane Academy 64-50 in the state Prep B final.
But then storm clouds rolled in on the horizon as the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading worldwide, putting the health of millions in jeopardy. The Ivy League sensed the danger before others, canceling its men’s and women’s basketball postseason tournaments on March 10. A day later, after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz of the NBA tested positive for the coronavirus, the sports world came to a halt across the globe. Within days, the NCAA canceled the winter and spring seasons with students across the country being sent home to shelter in place. The pro hockey and basketball leagues put their seasons on hold while Major League Baseball postponed opening day indefinitely. The New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) canceled the rest of the winter season right away and later pulled the plug on spring sports as well.
Stuck at home, college and high school athletes kept in contact with their teammates and coaches on their computers via the Zoom calls that became a way of life. Players devised creative ways of working out and maintaining team bonds as they waited to get back into action.
With masking up, social distancing, and frequent hand washing becoming daily staples, sports gingerly started to stick its toe back in the water observing those safety protocols. In New Jersey, a “Last Dance” high school baseball tournament was held in July to give the players, particularly graduating seniors, a final taste of diamond action.
On the pro level, leagues gradually returned to action with the NBA, NHL, and WNBA operating in so-called “bubbles” with athletes located at one site, getting frequently tested for COVID-19 and living under strict protocols. Big league baseball played a sharply limited schedule which went from late July to October with 60 games as opposed to the usual 162. Once the fall rolled around, the NFL and major college football did resume action on the gridiron. But with the pandemic still raging, there were a number of pauses, postponements, and cancellations, particularly at the college level.
Once again, the Ivy League, ever mindful of athletes’ safety, canceled its fall competition. In November, the league pulled the plug on its winter sports as well.
As for New Jersey, the NJSIAA did give the go-ahead to fall sports, delaying the start of the season and promulgating a series of rules and protocols to deal with COVID-19. Princeton schools responded enthusiastically and carefully, excited to have a fall season but determined to keep the athletes safe. Once the action started, there was a sense of gratitude among the athletes, as win-loss records took a backseat to simply getting the chance to compete.
Making the most out of that chance, a number of local teams produced memorable campaigns. The PHS girls’ cross country team went undefeated in duals and won the first sectional title at the Group 4 level in program history while the Tiger boys’ soccer team advanced to the sectional final. The PHS girls’ tennis went undefeated in regular season action, winning the Colonial Valley Conference title before falling in the sectional semis.
Over at PDS, the girls’ soccer team lost its opener and then reeled off a 10-game winning streak to end the fall at 10-1 while both the Panther girls’ cross country and girls’ tennis teams never tasted a loss as they went undefeated. Hun cross country star junior Harry Carter solidified his status as one of the top runners in school history, clocking a time of 16:52 to win the Boys’ Varsity White 5,000-meter race in the XC 7-on-7 Invitational at Thompson Park. Picking up where it left off from a superb 2019 season, Stuart field hockey went 5-3-1, highlighted by a 4-1 win over Princeton Day School, a 2-1 triumph against Bordentown, and a pair of victories over Hun.
SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE: Princeton University women’s ice hockey player Carly Bullock, left, celebrates after scoring a goal in the ECAC Hockey playoffs in late February. Senior star Bullock helped Princeton win its first-ever ECACH crown as the Tigers defeated Cornell 3-2 in overtime in the league championship game. Bullock, who had 29 goals and 22 assists in 2019-20 campaign, earned All-ECACH First-Team honors and was named to the USCHO (U.S. College Hockey Online) national team. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
PU — Winter
It proved to be an historic winter for Princeton University sports even though the season ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Led by the high-scoring trio of sophomore Sarah Fillier, sophomore Maggie Connors, and senior Carly Bullock, the Princeton women’s hockey team produced a landmark campaign, culminating with the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey championship. Coach Cara Morey’s squad was ranked in the top 10 nationally throughout the winter and posted a 26-6-1 final record, setting a program record for most wins in a season.
In the ECAH best-of-three quarterfinals, second-seeded Princeton held off seventh-seeded Quinnipiac, as it got pushed to a double overtime in a decisive third game which it won 3-2 on a goal by Fillier. In the semis, the Tigers pulled away to a 5-1 win over third-seeded Clarkson. In the final at first-seeded and top-ranked Cornell, Princeton fell behind 2-0 early in the contest only to rally for a 3-2 win in overtime.
Earning their third NCAA appearance in the last five seasons, the sixth-ranked Tigers were slated to play at Northeastern, the Hockey East champs, in the quarterfinals. As Princeton was preparing for the trip to Boston, it learned that the winter season and the NCAA tournament had been canceled due to the pandemic.
Fillier, who tallied 20 goals and 34 assists on the season, was named as an AHCA (American Hockey Coaches Association) second-team All-American and selected for the USCHO (U.S. College Hockey Online) national team. Senior Bullock, who had 29 goals and 22 assists, joined Fillier in earning USCHO honors. Fillier and Bullock were selected to the All-ECACH First-Team while Connors, who notched 21 goals and 23 assists, and senior defenseman Claire Thompson (7 goals, 16 assists) were third-team honorees.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon in February, the wrestling team fired up a throng at Jadwin Gym, edging Cornell 19-13 to snap a 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and earning the program’s first Ivy League title since 1986.
Sophomore Travis Stefanik clinched the win by posting a victory at 184 pounds, sending the crowd of 1,049 into a frenzy. Princeton head coach Chris Ayres, whose team went 0-35 in his first two season as the helm (2006-2008), spread the credit around as he reflected on the program’s turnaround. “There’s just been a lot of people that I feel so grateful that stuck it out, and this is theirs too,” said Ayres. “It’s the kids, for sure. They did the work today, but getting them to that point is alumni, it’s the administration, it’s all the parents, the families, so we just have a great, fabulous network that builds our program right now that has been phenomenal.”
The Tigers went on to go 9-4 overall and 5-0 Ivy and took fifth at the EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) Championships. Sophomore Patrick Glory, the EIWA champion at 125 pounds, was named the Ivy Wrestler of the Year. Glory, senior Matthew Kolodzik, the EIWA winner at 149, sophomore Quincy Monday (157), sophomore Grant Cuomo (165), Stefanik (184), and junior Patrick Brucki (197) each qualified for the NCAA Championships. The six stars, though, never got a chance to wrestle for a national title as the meet was canceled.
When head coach Courtney Banghart left her job as the head coach of the Tigers women’s basketball team in the spring of 2019 to take over the North Carolina program after a spectacular 12-year tenure that saw her post a Tiger record in victories with a 254-103 overall mark, there were questions as to whether Princeton could continue its Ivy dominance.
REACHING NEW HEIGHTS: Princeton University women’s basketball player Bella Alarie goes in for a layup in a game this past winter. Senior star Alarie helped Princeton go 26-1 overall and 14-0 Ivy League. She was named the Ivy Player of the Year for the third time. The 6’4 native of Bethesda, Md., ended up first in program history in points (1,703), blocks (249), and double-doubles (40). In April, Alarie got selected fifth overall by the Dallas Wings in the first round of the WNBA Draft. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
New coach Carla Berube, coming to Princeton after making Tufts University into a Division III women’s hoops powerhouse, answered those questions in the affirmative. Installing a suffocating defensive style and riding the offensive heroics of senior superstar Bella Alarie, Berube guided the Tigers to a 26-1 overall record and a 14-0 Ivy campaign as Princeton rose to 17th in one of the national polls.
Princeton ended regular season play riding a 22-game winning streak and was poised for a deep postseason run, starting with the Ivy postseason tournament. However, when the Ivy tourney became one of the first of cancellations resulting from the pandemic, the NCAA tournament was subsequently nixed and the Tigers’ postseason dreams died.
Alarie, for her part, was named Ivy League Player of the Year for the third straight season and became the first league player to be selected as two-time Associated Press All-American. She averaged 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 2.3 assists in 23 games. The 6’4 native of Bethesda, Md., ended up first in program history in points (1,703), blocks (249), and double-doubles (40). In April, Alarie got selected fifth overall by the Dallas Wings in the first round of the WNBA Draft.
Junior point guard Carlie Littlefield made some history of her own, passing the 1,000-point mark in her career. She was named a first-team All-Ivy performer for the second straight season, coming in second on the squad in scoring (13.7 points) while pacing the Tigers in assists (80) and steals (50).
Losing a number of nail-biters, men’s hockey struggled through a tough regular season, going 2-16-4 in ECAC Hockey regular season play to finish 11th of 12 teams in the league standings. But coach Ron Fogarty’s team saved its best for last, sweeping sixth-seeded Dartmouth in a best-of-three first round playoff series, posting a pair of overtime victories, 4-3 in the opener and 5-4 in the clincher. But just as the Tigers were playing their best hockey, the rest of the ECACH playoffs and season was canceled due to COVID-19 and they ended the winter at 6-20-5 overall.
Raunak Khosla starred as men’s swimming placed second at the Ivy championship meet. Sophomore Khosla was named as the High Point Swimmer of the Meet, placing first in the 200 individual medley, 400 IM, and 200 butterfly. Coach Matt Crispino’s team went 7-3 overall and 5-2 Ivy.
SILENT SPRING: Things were quiet in mid-March at Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, the home of Princeton’s men’s and women’s lacrosse programs. There wasn’t any action on the field after early March as the NCAA canceled the spring season due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Ivy League subsequently canceled both of its fall and winter campaigns due to COVID-19 concerns. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Mimi Lin and Ellie Marquardt came up big to help women’s swimming place first at the Ivy League Championship meet. Senior Lin, who was named Ivy Career High-Point Diver at the Ivy League Championships, was an NCAA qualifier on 1-meter and 3-meter. She finished third on 1-meter and seventh on 3-meter at the Ivy Championships. Freshman Marquardt, who was an NCAA qualifier in the 1,650 and 500 freestyle events, was named Ivy League High Point Swimmer of the Meet at the Ivy Championships. She won Ivy titles in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 free races. They were both selected as All-Americans by the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA). Coach Bret Lungaard guided the squad to a 9-1 record overall and 7-0 Ivy as the Tigers rose to No. 22 in the national rankings.
Producing another dominant performance, men’s track won its sixth straight Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Track Championships. Legendary coach Fred Samara’s squad piled up 173 points in taking the title with Harvard taking 116 to finish in second. Sophomore Andrei Iosivas won the heptathlon at the Heps to get named as the Most Outstanding Field Performer. Senior Joey Daniels earned a first-place finish and broke the school and conference records in the 60-meter hurdles. Junior Sam Ellis prevailed in the 1,000, sophomore C.J. Licata won the shot put, junior Jeff Hollis won the high jump, and senior Justice Dixon took first in the 200. The quartet of Ellis, senior JC Colangelo, sophomore Scott Thompson, and junior Eli Krahn produced a victory in the distance medley relay.
Showing its strength in the relays, women’s track placed fourth at the Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Track Championships. Coach Michelle Eisenreich’s squad earned third place finishes in both the distance medley relay and the 4×400. Individually, sophomore Charlotte O’Toole was a standout, taking third in the 500.
Led by senior star George Huhmann, men’s volleyball was on its way to another superb season before competition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coach Sam Shwiesky had his team at 9-6 overall and 7-2 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) when the season ended prematurely after its March 6 loss to NJIT.
Huhmann, for his part, garnered All-EIVA first team honors for the fourth time in his career and joined the 1,000-kill club in the process. Senior Parker Dixon, junior Joe Kelly and sophomore Jerod Nelsen earned All-EIVA second team honors while senior Greg Luck received All-EIVA honorable mention.
Sparked by a quartet of All-Ivy performers in freshman Caroline Spahr, junior Raneem El Torky, junior Emme Leonard, and sophomore Elle Ruggiero, women’s squash advanced to the College Squash Association (CSA) national championship match where it fell 6-1 to Harvard. Coach Gail Ramsay guided the Tigers to a 14-2 overall record and 6-1 Ivy.
Continuing to show progress, men’s squash placed fourth in the College Squash Association (CSA) national championship tournament. Coach Sean Wilkinson’s squad went 11-6 overall and 4-3 Ivy as sophomore Youssef Ibrahim has earned CSA first-team All-America honors.
RECORD BREAKER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse attackman Michael Sowers heads to goal in a 2020 game. Senior superstar Sowers tallied 47 points on 16 goals and 31 assists in just five games for men’s lacrosse as the Tigers went 5-0 and rose to No. 3 in the national rankings before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sowers ended his Tiger career with program records in points (302) and assists (181). He was named as a first-team All-American along with Princeton junior defender George Baughan. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
PU — Spring
While the cancellation of the spring season across college sports meant that none of the Princeton University crew or track teams got to compete at all in 2020, some Tiger athletes did make their presence felt in action that took place in late February and early March.
Superstar senior attackman Michael Sowers tallied 47 points on 16 goals and 31 assists in just five games for men’s lacrosse. Sparked by Sowers’ heroics, Princeton went 5-0 as the Tigers rose to No. 3 in the national polls before the season was halted. Coach Matt Madalon’s squad posted wins over defending national champion Virginia, perennial power Johns Hopkins, and local rival Rutgers as it shot up the rankings.
Sowers, for his part, ended his Tiger career with program records in points (302) and assists (181). He was named as a first-team All-American along with Tiger junior defender George Baughan. Sophomore Jake Stevens and senior Connor McCarthy were honorable mention selections. After the spring, Sowers announced that he was going to finish his college eligibility by playing for Duke in 2021 as a graduate student.
Kyla Sears and Marge Donovan led the way as women’s lacrosse went 3-2. Working a number of young players into the rotation, coach Chris Sailer’s team appears to have a bright future.
Junior attacker Sears and junior defender Donovan were named as second-team Maverick Women’s Division I Media All-Americans by Inside Lacrosse. Sears tallied 29 points on 20 goals and nine assists to lead Princeton in scoring while Donovan produced team highs with 14 ground balls and 17 draw controls.
Running into some tough foes on two early season Southern swings, baseball went 0-4 against Penn State in Cary, N.C., and 0-3 at No. 18 Mississippi before the 2020 campaign was shut down. Coach Scott Bradley’s program did see two of its players join the pro ranks after the season as senior pitcher James Proctor signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization and junior infielder Jake Boone inked a deal with Washington Nationals.
Getting off to a promising start, softball went 4-4 before the season got canceled. Coach Lisa Van Ackeren’s team ended the season on a high note, scoring two runs in the final inning to rally for an 11-9 win over Morgan State in its last game. The Tigers showed good offensive punch, compiling a team batting average of .313 with Serena Starks hitting .529 and Adrienne Chang batting .500. Allison Harvey provided the power, pounding out two homers with eight RBIs in eight games.
Led by Amy Castellano, Laura Larkin, and Marisa Webb, women’s water polo was on track for another fine campaign. Coach Derek Ellingson’s squad posted a record of 8-3 before the season was stopped, rising to No. 20 in the final Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) national poll. Senior Castellano paced the team with 24 goals and 33 points while junior Larkin had 15 goals and a team-high 13 assists and junior goalie Webb had a .543 save percentage in 10 starts. Castellano and Larkin were CWPA Honorable Mention All-America selections.
Evan Quinn provided a highlight as men’s golf started its spring season with dual match play against Duke in mid-February. Senior Quinn defeated the nation’s No. 2-ranked player by Golfstat, Adrien Pendaries, 3 and 1, in their match. Coach Will Green’s team fell 6-2 and 4.5-3.5 in the competition held at the The Club at Emerald Hills in Hollywood, Fla. and never got to tee it off again in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Tiffany Kong starred in the final event of a shortened spring season for women’s golf. Sophomore Kong finished second at the Entrada Classic hosted by BYU at the Entrada at Snow Canyon in St. George, Utah in early March, shooting a one-over 217 for the three-round event. Coach Erika DeSanty’s squad tied for fifth in the team standings at the event and then saw the rest of its season canceled days later due to COVID-19 concerns.
Winning its last six matches before the season got canceled, men’s tennis finished with a 14-4 record. Coach Billy Pate’s team rose to No. 18 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national poll.
With sophomore Brianna Shvets and freshman Daria Frayman starring at the top of the singles lineup, women’s tennis posted a 10-3 record before the spring campaign got halted due to the pandemic. Coach Laura Granville, who had guided the program to five Ivy League titles in six years coming into 2020, including two straight, saw her squad ranked 11th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national poll.
While the spring season was canceled, Princeton Athletics did hold its annual Gary Walters ‘67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet on May 28 virtually through a webcast. Star wrestler Kolodzik and men’s lacrosse standout Sowers were named as the co-recipients of William Winston Roper Trophy given annually to Princeton’s top senior male athlete. Women’s hoops star Alarie was chosen as the winner of the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award, given annually to the school’s top senior female athlete.
Senior baseball star outfielder Chris Davis and senior field hockey goalie Grace Baylis were named as the recipients of the Art Lane ‘34 Award, which is presented annually to Princeton University student-athletes in recognition of their selfless contribution to sport and society. Tiger women’s track standout Hadley Wilhoite was selected as the winner of the Class of 1916 Cup, which is awarded each year to the Princeton varsity letter winner who continuing in competition in his or her senior year achieved the highest academic standing by time of graduation.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING: Jeff Halpern holds the Stanley Cup after helping to coach the Tampa Bay Lightning to the title in September as the team topped the Dallas Stars in the finals. Former Princeton University men’s hockey star Halpern ’99 started coaching in the Tampa Bay organization after a 14-year playing career in the NHL. He was promoted to the Lightning as an assistant coach for the 2018-19 season. (Photo provided by Jeff Halpern)
PU in the Pros
Over the summer and into the fall as professional sports resumed, several Princeton alums distinguished themselves.
Former Tiger men’s hockey star Jeff Halpern ’99 helped coach the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup as the team topped the Dallas Stars in the finals in late September. By earning the Cup, assistant coach Halpern joined a select club of Princeton alums who have tasted that glory including George Parros ’03 as a player with Anaheim in 2007, Brent Flahr ’96 as a scout with Anaheim in 2007, Kevin Westgarth ’07 as a player with Los Angeles in 2012, and Chris Patrick ’98 as a director of player development with Washington in 2018.
Two other Princeton hockey alums, Taylor Fedun ’11 and Eric Robinson ’18, also competed in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Defenseman Fedun helped the Stars reach the final while forward Robinson notched his first career postseason goal as the Columbus Blue Jackets were knocked out in the first round.
The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) conducted its 2020 season in a bubble, holding a PLL Championship Series in Herriman, Utah, from July 25-August 9, and three former Princeton men’s lax stars Tom Schreiber ’14, Ryan Ambler ’16, and Zach Currier ’17 played prominent roles in the competition. Schreiber and Amber helped the Archers Lacrosse Club reach the semifinals while Currier starred for the Waterdogs, who fell in their Elimination Round opener. Schreiber, for his part, solidified his status as one of the PLL’s marquee players, winning the Gait Brothers Award as the league’s top midfielder for a second straight year.
Princeton baseball alum Mike Ford ’15 helped the New York Yankees make the Major League Baseball playoffs. The first baseman/designated hitter hit .135 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 29 games. Will Venable ’05 and Chris Young ’02 made news as they assumed key jobs in big league organizations. Venable was named the bench coach of the Boston Red Sox while Young took the general manager position with the Texas Rangers.
As the WNBA held a pandemic-shortened 22-game season in a bubble in Bradenton, Fla., two former Princeton women’s hoops standouts, Blake Dietrick ‘15 and Bella Alarie ’20, made their presence felt. Playing for the Atlanta Dream, Dietrick emerged as a key reserve for the squad, posting career highs with 5.9 points per game and 3.4 assists per game. Showing her outside shooting prowess, Dietrick finished eighth in the league in three-point shooting at 44.8 percent from beyond the arc, setting a franchise record for three-point shooting percentage. Alarie made her league debut for the Dallas Wings, averaging 2.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 22 appearances in her rookie campaign.
After an impressive first season of professional basketball for the Long Island Nets of the NBA G-League, former Princeton University men’s basketball star Devin Cannady ’20 signed a contract with the Orlando Magic. During his first season with the Nets, Cannady averaged 14.4, points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game.
On the pitch, Tyler Lussi ’17 and Diana Matheson ’08 competed in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup in Herriman, Utah. Lussi helped the Portland Thorns reach the semis while Matheson saw Utah Royals fall on penalties to eventual champion Houston in the quarterfinals.
With the Ivy League canceling fall and winter competition, Princeton fans got to follow the fortunes of three former Tiger football players who saw action in the NFL — Stephen Carlson ’19, John Lovett ’19, and Seth DeValve ’16.
Carlson made an impact at tight end and special teams for the Cleveland Browns as they got themselves in contention to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. He made a catch in a 27-25 win over Jacksonville on November 29.
After making the practice squad for the Kanas City Chiefs in 2019 on their way to winning the Super Bowl, Lovett caught on with the Green Bay Packers. Lovett was elevated from the Packers practice squad and played in the team’s first eight games. Used mostly as a blocking fullback and on special teams by Green Bay, Lovett stepped in as a runner and carried three times for six yards during the Packers’ 34-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers on November 5. Lovett saw his season end in November due to a knee injury.
Having previously played for the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars, DeValve signed with the Arizona Cardinals in late November and was back on the gridiron in New Jersey on December 13, playing for the Cardinals against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
GAME ON: Hun School field hockey head coach Tracey Arndt surveys the action during a game this October. Arndt helped Hun make progress as it went 1-6, staying competitive throughout the fall. Arndt, who also serves as Hun’s co-director of athletics, played a key role in helping the school pull off a fall sports season as it worked through COVID-19 concerns while other Mid-Athletic Prep League (MAPL) rivals like Lawrenceville, Peddie, and Blair Academy opted out. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Sophomore guards Dan Vessey and Jack Scott starred as the Hun School boys’ basketball team produced a late surge to end up at 12-14. Coach Jon Stone’s team struggled in the early going, starting 4-9 before finding a groove and earning some impressive wins down the stretch on the way to the state Prep A semis.
Led by the high-scoring trio of post-graduate Enya Maguire, junior Kennedy Jardine, and junior Izzy Lalo, girls’ basketball enjoyed a superb campaign. Coach Bill Holup led the Raiders to an 18-7 record as the team upset Lawrenceville 61-55 in the state Prep A semis to earn a spot in the final.
Falling just short of earning its seventh straight Mercer County Tournament title, boys’ hockey posted a 9-14-2 final record. Coach Ian McNally’s squad advanced to the MCT final where it led Princeton High 5-0 early in the second period only to fall 7-5 and see its title streak end at six years. The Raiders also advanced to the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) semis where they fell 2-1 to top-seeded Lawrenceville. A trio of juniors, Eddie Evaldi, Elliot Lareau, and Charles Lavoie, triggered the offense for Hun.
Showing progress, boys’ swimming took ninth in the team standings at the Mercer County Championships. Noting that a number of swimmers advanced to the A and B individual finals at the meet after having none the year before, coach Joan Nuse liked the way her squad competed.
Abbie Danko led the way as girls’ swimming finished sixth at the Mercer County Championships. Senior Danko placed first in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 backstroke. Coach Joan Nuse also got a third place finish in the 100 butterfly from senior Marie Eve-Hebert in the county meet.
The Hun boys’ lacrosse squad was one of the few teams in the area that actually got to play some games this spring before the season was canceled. With coach Jeff Snow taking the helm of the program, Hun fell 14-9 to St. Stephens & St. Agnes School (Va.) in its season opener on March 10 and then lost 13-12 to Penn Charter (Pa.) a day later. But by the end of the week, schools were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and then weeks later the spring sports season was formally canceled. In June, longtime college and pro coach Jim Stagnitta was hired to lead the Raiders heading into the 2020-21 school year.
The passing combination of quarterback Marco Sainez and receiver Mason Shipp helped power the football squad. The pair connected for some key touchdowns as coach Todd Smith guided the Raiders to a 3-3 record in a season limited by COVID-19 concerns.
With seniors Sydney Cobb, Kayla Hampton, Elizabeth Ji, Rosie Martinez, Aimee Millington, Renee Nearing, and Allison Rho setting a positive tone, field hockey stuck together as they worked through COVID-19 restrictions. Coach Tracey Arndt’s team competed hard as it went 1-6.
Installing a new possession-oriented style, boys’ soccer laid the foundation for future success. Coach Pat Quirk’s squad posted a 1-5 record as seniors Amar Anand, Alex Donahue, Sam Labrecque, and Levin Sanchez Willems led the way.
Displaying intensity on a daily basis, girls’ soccer showed some offensive firepower as it went 0-4-1. Coach Jenn Barrett’s team ended the season with a 2-2 tie against Conwell Egan (Pa.) and scored two goals and three goals in a pair of losses to powerhouse Pennington. Barrett credited seniors Anna Hyson, Chloe Hill, Abigail Trimble, and Ashleigh Patasnick with helping the team develop deep bonds as the Raiders worked through a challenging fall.
Harry Carter set the pace as cross country enjoyed a productive season even though the state prep and county championship meets were canceled. Junior star Carter won the Boys’ Varsity White race at the XC 7-on-7 Invitational in late October at Thompson Park, posting a time of 16:52 over the 5,000-meter course. He also recorded a personal-best 16:23 for fourth place in the Central Jersey XC Shootout earlier in the month on the same Thompson Park course. Coach Kurt Wayton’s squad had no seniors this fall so the future looks bright for the program.
With senior co-captain Sophia Lin playing well at second singles and setting an example with her commitment, girls’ tennis made the most out of a season shortened by COVID-19 concerns. Coach Joan Nuse returned to guide the program after an eight-year hiatus during which she was leading other teams at the school. Under Nuse, the Raiders went 3-2-2 and relished getting to be on the court. With sophomore Amanda Francis and freshman Anna Schweer playing at first and third singles, respectively, this fall, the squad should be solid going forward.
B-LINE: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Jomar Meekins dribbles around a foe in a game last season. Senior guard Meekins helped PDS win the state Prep B title as it defeated Doane Academy 64-50 in a hard-fought championship contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Featuring a core of battle-tested veterans, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team scrapped its way to a state Prep B title. Senior stars Jaylin Champion-Adams, Jomar Meekins, and Lucas Green along with juniors Ethan Garita and Dameon Samuels saved their best for last, topping Doane Academy 64-50 in a hard-fought prep title game. Coach Doug Davis guided the Panthers to a 14-11 record. After the season, former Hun School and Princeton University star Davis left PDS to take over the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program. Over the summer, longtime college and pro coach Eugene Burroughs was hired to succeed Davis.
With freshman Kirsten Ruf providing a spark, girls’ basketball kept competing through a tough campaign. Coach Liz Loughlin guided the squad to a 3-20 record.
Earning some memorable victories, boys’ hockey went 7-11-1. Coach Scott Bertoli’s squad posted overtime wins against local rivals Lawrenceville (3-2 on January 23) and Hun (4-2 on December 18) and edged perennial state power Delbarton (2-1 on January 9). The team’s seniors, Chris Cecila, Stephan Gorelenkov, and the Sherman twins, Justin and David, led the way in those tight contests.
A trio of seniors, Ellie Schofield along with the Haggerty twins, Caroline and Charlotte, displayed a strong work ethic in leading girls’ hockey. Coach John Ritchie guided the Panthers to a 10-11 record in his debut season at the helm of the program.
Although the county and state prep tournaments were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, girls soccer displayed championship form. After losing its season opener to Monroe, PDS reeled off 10 straight wins to end the season at 10-1. The winning streak was highlighted by a 2-1 win at defending state Group 4 and perennial powerhouse Hunterdon Central in early November. Coach Pat Trombetta’s squad got offensive firepower from senior Kelly Beal and freshman Adriana Salzano while seniors Jules Romano, Anna Ellwood, and Sophie Miranda patrolled the midfield and back line.
A strong senior group of Will Sedgley, Jacques Hughes, Fabio Yales, Alexander Liu Nowakoski, Mark Santamaria, Stephen Chukumba, Hector Capeilleres, Bruno Cucchi, Aidan McChesney, and Trevor Kunkle set a positive tone for boys’ soccer. Coach Olllie Hilliker’s squad played well down the stretch in ending up with a 6-5-1 record. Hiller went out with his senior class as he stepped down from the program after a superb five-year run which saw the Panthers win the state Prep B title in 2016.
Featuring three singles stars in freshman Emmy Demorre, sophomore Neha Khandkar, and sophomore Amy Zhou, girls’ tennis produced a memorable season, going 11-0. First-year head coach Chris Rosensteel credited senior doubles stars Hayden Masia, Hannah Van Dusen, and Gabrielle Namouni with playing a key role in helping the squad come together and develop a special competitive fire.
Coming on strong over the final weeks of the season, field hockey finished the fall with four straight wins to end with a 5-4 record. Coach Heather Farlow credited her seniors, captains Gianna Gasparro, Skye Harris, Olivia Phillips, and Aaliyah Sayed along with Hannah Choe and Caroline Topping, with keeping the squad on the right track.
With senior star Gunnar Clingman leading the way, boys’ cross country enjoyed a fine season. Coach John Woodside’s squad went 4-3, performing well in both the XC 7-on-7 Invitational at Thompson Park on October 24 and at its Home Prep Invitational a week later. Clingman set PDS course records on two occasions this fall, clocking a 17:48 time over the 5,000-meter lay-out in a meet on October 6 and then dropping the mark to 17:27 three days later.
The arrival of freshman Emily McCann helped to result in girls’ cross country producing one the best seasons in program history. Coach Woodside guided the team to an 11-0 record and wins in two invitational meets, the XC 7-on-7 Invitational meet at Thompson Park and its Home Prep Invitational a week later. McCann, for her part, placed first in every race over the course of the season. She was joined at the front of the PDS pack by fellow freshmen Brooke Law and Harleen Sandhu, sophomore Maddy Weinstein, and a pair of seniors, Alex Hollander and MacKenzie Mazzarisi.
STATING HER CASE: Princeton High wrestler Chloe Ayres dominates a foe in a 2019 match. In early March, Ayres won the 107-pound weight class at the NJSIAA girls’ state wrestling championships to earn her second straight crown at the competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Riding a late surge that saw it win eight of its last 10 regular season games, the Princeton High boys’ basketball team advanced to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. Coach Pat Noone’s squad went 13-12 as his senior group of Gefen Bar-Cohen, Jack Suozzi, Judd Petrone, Riley McMahon, Ben Moyer, Matt Rinaldi, and Brian Frost made a big impact.
Junior co-captains Brynne Hennessy and Ashley Tumpowsky provided leadership and production for girls’ basketball. Going with a young lineup that included no seniors, coach Dave Kosa guided the Tigers to a 5-20 record.
Producing a comeback for the ages, boys’ hockey overcame a 5-0 second period deficit to six-time defending champion Hun in the Mercer County Tournament championship game to pull out a 7-5 win and earn its first county crown since 2011. Senior star Rocco Salvato tallied four goals and an assist to help spark the rally. First-year coach Joe Bensky guided PHS to an 18-4-2 record as its season ended with a 4-1 loss at Southern in the first round of the state Public B tournament. Bensky left the program in the fall and former Madison High coach Dave Hansen was named to succeed him.
MIRACLE ON ICE: Nearly 40 years to the day after the U.S. men’s hockey team pulled off a stunning upset of Russia at the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team celebrates after it produced a miracle of its own in the Mercer County Tournament in late February. The Tigers overcame a 5-0 second period deficit to six-time defending champion Hun in the MCT championship game to pull out a 7-5 win and earn its first county crown since 2011. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Senior star Victoria Zammit ended her career with a bang, tallying 45 points on 34 goals and 11 assists in her final campaign for girls’ hockey. Coach Christian Herzog led the Tigers to a 4-14 record.
Chloe Ayres made more history for the wrestling program. Junior star Ayres won the 107-pound weight class at the NJSIAA girls’ state wrestling championships to earn her second straight state crown. First-year head coach Jess Monzo also got a superb effort from freshman Ava Rose as she took third at 100 pounds in the states. As for the PHS boys’ wrestlers, junior star James Romaine advanced to the state championships at 152 where he went 1-2.
Led by veteran performers Jesherun Reyen, Will Murray, Owen Tennant, and Jason Kratzer and sparked by the addition of freshman star Dan Baytin, boys’ swimming enjoyed a superb campaign. Coach Carly Misiewicz guided her team to a record of 12-2-1 and a spot in the state Public B Central Jersey sectional final and a fifth-place finish at the Mercer County Championships.
Senior Cami Davis and freshman Beatrice Cai starred as girls’ swimming took third at the county championships advanced to the state Public B Central Jersey sectional semis. Coach Misiewicz’s group finished the winter at 11-3.
Jason Bornstein provided a highlight as boys’ indoor track placed 14th at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet. Distance running star Bornstein placed fifth in the 3,200 for coach Ben Samara’s squad.
PACK MENTALITY: Members of the Princeton High girls’ cross country take off in a race this fall. PHS utilized the depth in its pack to place first in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship meet at Thompson Park in Jamesburg in November. It marked the program’s first sectional title at the Group 4 level. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Sophomore Kendall Williamson starred for girls’ indoor track, winning both the 55-meter dash and the 200 at the Mercer County Championships as PHS took fourth in the team standings. Coach Samara’s team went on to take 10th in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet as the 4×400 relay team of Williamson, Colleen Linko, Megan Rougas, and Raina Williamson took third at the competition.
Buoyed by a 13-player senior class led by tri-captains Moses Santizo, Mike Spadea, and Dylan Angelucci, the football team went 1-5 in a season shortened by COVID-19 concerns. The campaign was highlighted by the Tigers’ 18-17 win over Bishop Eustace on October 10 which saw PHS overcome a 10-0 fourth quarter deficit to pull out the win in overtime. The victory snapped a 12-game losing streak with the Tigers not having won since defeating West Windsor/Plainsboro 22-19 on October 12, 2018. With a strong junior class that features quarterback Jaxon Petrone, receiver Jaiden Johnson, running back Lehehmoo Pwee, and receiver Everaldo Servil along with linemen Ben Boyden-Bailey, Giancarlo Momo, and Jason Ling, coach Charlie Gallagher believes the team can build on the progress made this fall.
Senior Shoshi Henderson and junior Olivia Weir sparked the attack while juniors Grace Rebak and Aleena Inayat anchored the defense as field hockey produced another strong season. Coach Heather Serverson guided the team to an 8-2 record as the Tigers saw their season end with a 1-0 loss to Hillsborough in the Central West B sectional quarterfinals. With a strong group of returning players that features juniors Weir, Rebak, Frankie deFaria, Stella Matsukawa, Erin Kiesewetter, and Inayat along with sophomores Hannah Christopher, Kayla Christopher, Erin Cooke, and Gianna DiGioacchino, Serverson sees a bright future for the program.
Juniors Sophia Lis and Megan Rougas formed a potent one-two scoring punch as girls’ soccer emerged as one of the top squads in the Colonial Valley Conference. Coach Val Rodriguez’s squad went 9-3-1, posting victories over such tough foes as Robbinsville (2-0 on October 10), Notre Dame (4-3 in overtime on October 14), and Steinert (1-0 on November 13).
Rodriguez credited the team’s senior group of Lily Gabriello, Vanessa Ponce, Grace Heilbronn, Christina Tkac, Phoebe Frankel, Ava Thomson, Ashley Tam, and Greta Bush with contributing team chemistry, passion, and hard work as the Tigers advanced to the Central West C (Group 4) sectional quarterfinals.
Featuring some scoring threats in seniors Nick Petruso, Youri Laoui, and Ian Pompliano with a defense keyed by senior goalie Jared Bell along with classmates Dylan Parker, Ethan Parker, and Rafa Davis, the boys’ soccer enjoyed a stellar campaign. The Tigers won five of their last six regular season games and then went on a stirring run in the Central West B Group 4 sectional. The top-seeded Tigers defeated eighth-seeded Watchung Hills 2-0 in the quarterfinals and then cruised to a 5-0 victory over fifth-seeded Hightstown in the semis. In the final, PHS hosted second-seeded and perennial powerhouse Hunterdon Central in a contest that turned into a thrilling battle that saw the Tigers fall 1-0. Coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team ended the fall with a 9-3-1 record.
With freshmen Shaila Iyer and Eva Lependorf emerging as stars at first and second singles, respectively, girls’ tennis produced an 11-0 regular season record and won the Colonial Valley Conference title. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s squad advanced to the Central West A (Group 4) sectional semifinals where it fell 3-2 to Hunterdon Central. Ending up with a 12-1 record, the prospects look good for the Tigers with six of their top seven players slated to return.
Senior Jacob Bornstein led the pack and sophomore Marty Brophy emerged as a star for boys’ cross country. Brophy led the way for the Tiger boys, taking 14th at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional in a time of 17:11.10 over the 5,000-meter course with Bornstein finishing 27th in 17:25.80. Coach Jim Smirk’s team placed fifth in the team standings at the meet.
Utilizing its depth, girls’ cross country made history as it won the program’s first-ever sectional title at the Group 4 level. The Tigers placed first in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet in mid-November at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. PHS had a score of 49 with runner-up Montgomery coming in at 54. Hunterdon Central was third with 100 points. Senior Charlotte Gilmore led the way in fourth place, clocking a time of 19:32.50 over the 5,000-meter course. Freshman Kyleigh Tangen placed sixth in 19:59.30 while sophomore Lucy Kreipke was seventh in 20:04.50. Sophomore Robin Roth finished 10th in 20:16.70 and senior Yana Medvedeva took 22nd in 20:55.70. Coach Jim Smirk’s squad went undefeated in Colonial Valley Conference duals this fall leading up to the sectional victory.
THREE-PEAT: Members of the Stuart Country Day basketball team celebrate after the Tartans topped Academy of St. Elizabeth 65-33 in the state Prep B final in February to win their third straight state prep crown. Stuart went on to make its first-ever appearance in the Mercer County Tournament final where it fell 60-43 to top-seeded and defending champion Trenton Catholic. The Tartans ended the winter with a 21-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
The trio of Alex Ottomanelli, Heather Kwafo, and Cara Carr led the way as the Stuart Country Day School track team won its third straight state Prep B indoor championship meet. Senior Ottomanelli placed first in the 55 hurdles and 800 and helped the 4×400 relay prevail at the meet while senior Kwafo placed first in both the 55 dash and 200. Junior Carr took second in the 400 and was part of the winning 4×400 relay. Coach Len Klepack also got a win from sophomore Audrey Blandford in the high jump.
Featuring a balanced offense with Laila Fair and Ariel Jenkins dominating in the paint and guards Aleah James, Jasmine Hansford, and Nia Melvin starring on the perimeter, the basketball program reached new heights. Coach Justin Leith guided his squad to its third straight state Prep B title and its first-ever appearance in the Mercer County Tournament final. While the second-seeded Tartans fell 60-43 to top-seeded and defending champion Trenton Catholic Academy in the county championship game, that defeat didn’t dim what had been accomplished in a memorable 21-7 campaign.
Led by a group of seniors including Molly Lagay, Janiah Adams, Morgan John, Catherine Martin, Lia Bull-Krieg, and Amaris Frink, the field hockey team made progress even in a season limited by COVID-19 concerns. Coach Missy Bruvik’s squad finished 5-3-1, highlighted by a 4-1 win over Princeton Day School, a 2-1 triumph against Bordentown, and a pair of victories over Hun. With such standout returners as juniors Keya Patel, Kaitlyn Magnani, Audrey Blandford, sophomore Lily Harlin, and freshmen Elise Prince and Isabel Milley, Bruvik believes there is a good foundation going forward for the program.
With a strong senior class including captains Melanie Burgess and Katheryn Ix along with Cara Carr, Misha Meyer, Olivia Giblin, and Sophia Scheulov, cross country made the most out of the fall. Coach Len Klepack’s squad took third in the Prep Invitational meet held on October 31 at Princeton Day School as Burgess, Ix and junior Trinity Boughton had strong performances at the competition.