August 5, 2020

RED ALERT: James Proctor fires a pitch during his career with the Princeton University baseball team. Shortly after graduating from Princeton in June, Proctor signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds. Over his Tiger career, Proctor posted a 2-16 record in 28 starts with 133 strikeouts in 137 2/3 innings and a 5.88 ERA. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Jim Proctor made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers just over 60 years ago after being named the South Atlantic League’s most outstanding pitcher in 1959.

James Proctor always dreamed of the chance to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. The 2020 Princeton University graduate took a big step toward that goal when he signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds on June 15.

“I was really excited about that,” said Proctor, a 6’5, 215-pound native of St. Louis, Mo.

“I went over to his house after it happened and celebrated and talked. We talk about baseball all the time. He’s definitely my biggest inspiration to keep playing. That was something really cool to follow in his footsteps moving forward.”

Proctor’s grandfather played professionally for nine years mostly in the minor leagues and Negro League. Proctor knew at a young age of his grandfather’s success and wanted to mirror it.

“It was cool,” said Proctor. “It was something that initially piqued my interest in baseball. I just had to continue because I wanted to. I’ve always carried it with me knowing I can lean on him any time for advice with anything. It’s a different game now but there’s still a lot of things that translate into today’s game. To always having him to talk to about baseball because he went through the same things at a higher level than me — where I want to get to — just having someone in the family who’s been at the top level has been great.” more

STICKING WITH IT: Julia Ryan heads to goal during her career for the Temple University women’s lacrosse team. While Princeton High alumna Ryan’s senior season with the Owls was cut short this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she enjoyed a productive career, tallying 16 goals and 14 assists over her four years. (Photo by Zamani Feelings, provided courtesy Temple Athletics Strategic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Having displayed steady progress during her first three seasons for the Temple University women’s lacrosse team, Julia Ryan was primed for a big finale to her college career this spring.

“I was part of a class of 10 at Temple, so we had been waiting for our senior season since we walked in the door as freshmen,” said Ryan, a former Princeton High standout.

“We were such a tight unit and of the starting lineup, I think we had nine seniors and two juniors on the field. So it was a veteran squad and we were really looking to build.”

Ryan and the Owls showed their prowess in a tight 16-14 loss to then-No. 6 Princeton on February 15.

“The Princeton game was this huge moment for us because we really pushed them,” recalled Ryan, a 5’10 attacker who had an assist in the setback.

“At halftime, we were ahead 8-6 and we were all sitting in the locker room, saying guys we can do this. We have never had this feeling before. Even though we ended up losing, it was such a good, well-fought game. We were all so proud of ourselves, that was really an exciting game for us.”

But after getting off to a promising 5-4 start, the excitement ended for Temple as the season was canceled in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I will never forget that meeting because the coaches were in there, they told us and then they left us alone and let us sit in a circle and talk,” said Ryan, recalling when she and her teammates learned that their season was over.

“Lacrosse is a great character building experience; it is also grueling for four years. I remember sitting there and I was very upset. I said to the group that I didn’t think I was going to be upset but I really am.” more

July 29, 2020

STILL CHASING HIS DREAM: Donn Cabral clears a hurdle in a steeplechase race during a 2016 meet. Former Princeton University men’s track star Cabral ’12, who competed for the U.S. in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, was planning to go after a third trip to the Olympics before the U.S. Olympic Track Trials and 2020 Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cabral placed eighth in each of his two previous Olympic appearances and is planning to continue training over the next year for one last shot at the Games. (Photo Courtesy of USA Track)

By Justin Feil

Donn Cabral returned to Princeton University in late May and ran on the weekend that would have featured Reunion festivities.

The three-time NCAA All-American in steeplechase and two-time cross country All-America during his Princeton men’s track career might normally have been preparing for a shot at making his third United States Olympic team, but on this occasion it was just a chance to reconnect with former Tiger men’s cross country co-captain Brian Leung.

“I’m still very much plugged in with the people that I knew,” said Cabral, the American collegiate record holder in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:19.14).

“The most important thing for me is the inspiration I get from other friends from college who are doing really cool things and following what they love and putting their heart and soul into it and even just being willing and able to talk and open up and discuss our goals and shortcomings and our steps to improve through them. Princeton is still very much a part of my life. I was looking forward to getting to go to Reunions this year.”

Cabral has done some really cool things himself since graduating in 2012 and hopes to add one more big achievement before he retires from running professionally. more

POST TIME: Gracie Poston catches her breath after running a hurdles race at the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp held at the Princeton High track earlier this month. The program, which took place from July 13-15, drew about 40 athletes and culminated with FAT (fully automatic timing) races on its final day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The loud crack of a starter pistol can be startling to some, but it was music to the ears of Ben Samara as he presided over the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp earlier this month.

For Princeton High track head coach Samara, getting to work with athletes after the spring season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a blast.

“I can’t believe we are actually here,” said a smiling Samara of the camp which took place at the Princeton High track from July 13-15.

“It is kind of crazy to hear the sound of the gun go off and to see these kids, who invest so much time in this to be able to enjoy themselves. It is just so rewarding.”

The athletes enjoyed being together even as they observed the protocols put in place due to COVID-19.

“The kids were so thrilled to see each other, it was great to just be around athletes training again,” said Samara of the program which drew about 40 athletes, who came mainly from PHS but also Allentown and Hillsborough. more

FULL SPEED AHEAD: Matt Perello sprints to the finish line in a race at the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp held at the Princeton High track earlier this month. After his senior season for PHS track was canceled this spring due to COVID-19 pandemic, star sprinter Perello is looking forward to racing at the college level as he will be attending Bucknell University and competing for its men’s track program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After a disappointing junior campaign last year for the Princeton High boys’ track team, star sprinter Matt Perello knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish this spring.

“Last season wasn’t the best for me, I was plateauing a little bit; I was coming off an injury so it wasn’t really good for me,” said Perello, whose personal bests coming into this spring were 11.09 in the 100 and 22.31 in the 200.

“I still had PRs from sophomore year that I really wanted to break last year so this spring season, I really wanted to break all of those. I wanted to break 22 seconds in the 200. I wanted to break 50 seconds in the 400. I wanted to break 11 seconds in the 100. Running track in high school, you are always looking to  get better. You are trying to self-improve and improve your team.” more

July 22, 2020

FINAL SWING: Maya Walton displays her driving form during her career for the Princeton University women’s golf team. While Walton didn’t get to complete her senior season this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she graduated as one of the most decorated players in program history. She was Ivy League Player of the Year in 2018 and a three-time All-Ivy performer. Walton helped Princeton to Ivy League titles in her first two seasons and became the third Tiger player to earn an individual bid to the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, tying for fifth at the Athens Regional in 2017 to advance to the national competition. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Maya Walton was planning to peak when it mattered most in her senior season for the Princeton University women’s golf team.

In the 2019 fall season, Walton tied for second in the William and Mary Invitational and tied for fifth in the Princeton Invitational.

“I didn’t quite play exactly how I wanted,” said Walton, who hails from Austin, Texas.

“It was always trusting the process and trusting practice that eventually by the time Ivies came back around, my game would where I needed it to be.”

As she looked forward to the spring season and competing in the Ivy League Championships, Walton spent the winter honing her game, technically and mentally.

“It was more about consistency for me,” said Walton, who helped Princeton win the Ivy tournament in both 2017 and 2018.

“I did a lot of short game practice. I practiced what I could and then a lot of it was just mental game management and really trying to practice what I could indoors for the spring season. It is always kind of hard coming out of an offseason where you are a feel-based player but you live in New Jersey so you don’t really get to be outside.” more

CATCHING UP: Cole Palmeri, right, guards the plate last week for the The Program, the Hun School baseball team entry in the Last Dance World Series statewide New Jersey high school baseball tournament. The event was organized for this July in order to give seniors an opportunity to play with their teammates one last time. Recently graduated Palmeri played catcher in both games as Hun topped Pennington 5-2 before falling 3-2 to Trenton Catholic to get eliminated from the competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Cole Palmeri would have loved to play a few more baseball games with his Hun School teammates, but the couple that they did get together meant a lot.

Palmeri caught both games that the Hun entry, known as The Program, played in the single-elimination Last Dance World Series last Wednesday and Tuesday at the Trenton Babe Ruth field.

The Hamilton resident was behind the plate for Hun’s pitching staff in a 5-2 win over Pennington in the Last Dance opener on July 14 and had a key RBI before Hun was eliminated with a 3-2 heartbreaking loss to Trenton Catholic Academy a day later in the four-team Trenton Regional (Group 10B) of the South Region.

“That was great to get out there and play again,” said Palmeri. “To get back out there with my teammates especially after having the season canceled in the spring, it was kind of a good little redemption tour to get back out there, especially for me as a senior. It was good to get one last chance to play with my guys.” more

LAST HURRAH: Brian Frost takes a cut last week as he competed for the PC Tigers, the Princeton High entry in the Last Dance World Series statewide New Jersey high school baseball tournament that was organized to give seniors the chance to play with their teammates one last time. Recently graduated Frost and the PC squad went 0-3 in pool play in the Lawrenceville Regional (Group 7) of the South Region to get eliminated from the competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Brian Frost and his fellow seniors on the Princeton High baseball team were primed to go out with a bang this spring.

“The six or seven seniors that we have were all really looking forward to it,” said infielder Frost, referring to the 2020 campaign.

But weeks into preseason, schools were closed to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and weeks later, the whole spring sports season was formally canceled.

“It really stunk for us; we were looking forward to getting out there, we had a week or two of practice before everything shut down,” recalled Frost.

“We were all still hoping there would be a season. We were hoping to do some captain’s practices or something like that.” more

July 15, 2020

SPRING IN HIS STEP: Princeton University football player Collin Eaddy scores a touchdown in a game last fall. Rising senior running back Eaddy will hope to be back in action this spring after the Ivy League decided that there will be no games this fall. The league added that there will be no competition until January 1 at the earliest and that the winter and spring sports calendars will be decided at a later date with the possibility that fall sports could take place in the spring. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on March 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it drew some fire for the decision.

Many thought the league had jumped the gun and some of the players slated to play in the tourney signed a petition imploring Ivy administrators to change their mind and reinstate the event.

But it turned out that the Ivies were ahead of the curve as the sports world screeched to a halt across the globe days later.

Last Wednesday, the league made another controversial decision, becoming the first Division I conference to cancel all sports competition this fall.

Once again the Ivies appear to be a trendsetter as the Patriot League followed suit on Monday and canceled all fall competition while the Big 10 and Pacific 12 have limited all games this fall to conference contests only.

In announcing their position, the Ivy presidents made it clear that reaching such a conclusion was painful.

“These decisions are extremely difficult, particularly when they impact meaningful student-athlete experiences that so many value and cherish,” said the presidents, noting that fall training will be allowed for student athletes on campus with no games before January 1 at the earliest and that the winter and spring sports calendars will be decided at a later date with the possibility that fall sports could take place in the spring.

“With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall.” more

July 8, 2020

SAY HEY: Megan Donahey slaps the ball during her career with the Princeton University softball team. Star outfielder Donahey hit .346 this spring in a senior season abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donahey ended up with a career batting average of .362, third-best in program history. (Photo by Michael Sudhalter, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Having proven to be a model of consistency during her first three seasons for the Princeton University softball team, Megan Donahey was primed to take things to a higher level this spring in her senior campaign.

“Everyone was super optimistic about this year,” said Donahey, who batted .377 as a freshman, .328 as a sophomore, and .385 as a junior.

“We were coming off a tough season, we had lots of injuries late in the season but we were really confident in this squad. The six freshman were just so awesome and we had a really, really good team culture this year.”

With Donahey hitting .346 in the first eight games of the 2020 campaign as Princeton got off to a 4-4 start, that optimism seemed justified.

“For the eight games that we played, they went super well,” said the 5’4 Donahey, a native of Phoenix, Ariz.

“Typically we peak later in the season. We actually did really well in the pre-Ivy season. There wasn’t just one way that we won the games. Sometimes the pitchers would pitch super well and then other times the offense would have an explosion and do really well and we would win the game that way. It just seemed like all facets of the game were working at different times to make us do really well.”

But as Princeton was getting ready for its annual Florida trip in mid-March, the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Donahey and her fellow seniors ruing what might have been. more

SPECIAL RUN: Tim Williams makes a point to his Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team in 2016 during its run to the state Prep B title. Williams coached the squad for several seasons in addition to his role as the school’s Director of Upper School Athletics. After a nine-year run as the PDS AD, Williams is leaving the school to take the same position at the University School of Milwaukee. During Williams’ Panther tenure, PDS teams won 33 county and state Prep championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Speaking in the Southern drawl of his native Tennessee, Tim Williams may have seemed out of place when he came north in 2011 to become the new Director of Upper School Athletics at the Princeton Day School.

But it didn’t take long for the genial Williams to develop a rapport with his new colleagues.

“You come to a new school and you are not sure exactly what you are going to get,” said Williams, who had been the athletic director and boys’ basketball head coach at the Louisville Collegiate School before taking the PDS job.

“The coaches seemed to trust me tentatively to begin with and then they really came to be close. I was close to them and vice versa. We were able to really work in concert together and get the best out of the kids and get the best out of the teams.”

In addition, Williams quickly became close to the PDS student-athletes.

“I love the kids, that is why I got into this business at the start,” said Williams.

“I love going out to the games and practices and bantering back and forth. My favorite thing is when the kids come back after they have been at college for a year or a couple of years. They come back and stop by your office just to say hi and let you know how they are doing. I think it is a telltale sign that it is a real healthy program.” more

CHICAGO FIRE: Blane Soper keeps his eye on the ball in a 2019 game during his senior season with the Hun School baseball team. This spring, Soper got his college career off to a promising start, hitting .217 with five runs and four RBIs in six games for the University of Chicago before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Although Blane Soper wasn’t sure what to expect when he tried out for the University of Chicago baseball team, he rose rapidly to a promising start for the squad.

The 2019 Hun School graduate was recruited as a preferred walk-on as pitcher, and Soper not only made the team, but shifted fully to playing outfield, and earned a starting spot and had a five-game hitting streak to start his collegiate career this spring.

“It was super surreal, a great experience,” said Soper. “I was ecstatic. It was always trying not to be complacent and better myself and contribute to the team in the best way I can.”

During his Hun career, Soper did a little bit of everything but mostly pitched and played left field. UChicago first took interest in him at a showcase event after his junior season in  high school, and Soper further impressed them at their camp.

He was admitted to the highly ranked academic school on his own, and came to their fall baseball tryouts as a preferred walk-on, looking to earn his way onto a team past a win over last year’s top-ranked team in Division III (4-3 over Trinity University (Texas) in March, 2019).

“Being a student-athlete in college definitely transforms your college experience,” said Soper.

“I really wanted to play in college and I really wanted to go to a really competitive academic school. UChicago is really exciting for me. Being D-3 and having a good rapport with the coach and him seeing me in the past, I felt good about having that ability to go to a really great school and also be a student-athlete. I felt pretty good about myself approaching the tryouts because over the summer I played Legion and I put on a lot of good weight in the weight room.” more

July 1, 2020

RETURN FLIGHT: Joe Scott makes a point to a player during the 2006-07 season in his last campaign as the head coach of the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Scott, a 1987 Princeton alum and former star guard for the Tigers, went on to serve as the head coach at the University of Denver from 2007-16 and then had stints as assistant coach at Holy Cross (2016-18) and the University of Georgia (2018-20), was recently named as the head coach of the Air Force men’s hoops program. It marks his second stint with the Falcons as he coached the Air Force from 2000-04. (Photo by NJ SportAction)

By Justin Feil

Making a return flight, Joe Scott is preparing for his second stint as the Air Force Academy men’s basketball head coach.

It is the Princeton University alum’s first head coaching job since 2016, not that he had ever left the game.

“The main thing how I went through it is I’m a coach,” said Scott, 54, who worked as an assistant coach at Holy Cross (2016-18) and at the University of Georgia (2018-20) during that period.

“I’ve always been a coach and I approached it that way. I kept coaching. I felt that continuing to coach and being around 18-22-year-olds and helping them improve and helping them grow, that was the way to become a head coach again. I’m fortunate. What I’m really glad about is I did it that way. People take time off, but I’m glad I did it that way. I was at two different places, and the last four years I’m going to really use in my time here at Air Force. I learned so much in the last four years.”

Scott has been a head coach for 16 of his 29 years in coaching. The 1987 Princeton graduate played for Pete Carril and then headed to Notre Dame Law School and practiced law for a New Jersey firm, Ribis, Graham, & Carter. Scott found his way back to the basketball court, starting out as an assistant at Monmouth before joining the staff of the legendary Carril and then serving as an assistant to Bill Carmody when Carril retired. In taking the Air Force post, Scott joins other Princeton alumni Chris Mooney (Richmond), Mike Brennan (American), and Mitch Henderson (Princeton) as Division I head coaches. Scott also added former Tigers player and coach Sydney Johnson to his Air Force staff. more

STICKING POINT: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Trevor Deubner, right, battles to get past a foe in a game last spring. Senior star attackman and University of North Carolina-bound Deubner was primed to quarterback Hun’s high-powered offense in his final campaign. The Raiders totaled 21 goals as they started 0-2 before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team got off to a 0-2 start this spring, Jeff Snow felt fortunate.

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.

“We were one of the lucky schools — the only one in New Jersey to the best of my knowledge — to have actually played two games,” said Hun head coach Snow, a former assistant with the program who took the helm this spring, succeeding previous head coach MV Whitlow after he stepped down last fall.

“In the past we had gone to the desert of Arizona to train, but we felt that this group needed to be challenged and play right away.”

Snow was encouraged by how the Hun offense clicked in the two games and saw good things on the horizon. more

TRAINED EYE: Jim Stagnitta eyes the action in his role as the head coach coach of the Whipsnakes of the Premier Lacrosse League. Stagnitta, who boasts 32 years of college and pro coaching experience, is bringing his wealth of knowledge to the high school level, having recently been hired as the head coach of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse program. (Photo provided courtesy of the Hun School)

By Bill Alden

With a resume that includes extensive college and pro lacrosse coaching experience, Jim Stagnitta is now bringing that wealth of knowledge to the local high school scene as he will be taking the helm of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse program.

Over his 32 years in the game, Stagnitta had guided such college programs as Rutgers University, Arcadia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington and Lee University. On the pro level, he has been the head coach of the Denver Outlaws and the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse as well as the offensive coordinator for the Florida Launch. He is currently the head coach of the Whipsnakes in the Premier Lacrosse League.

In reflecting on his move to Hun, which was announced last week, Stagnitta believes the time is right for him to bring his expertise to that level.

“I’m no stranger to high school lacrosse,” said Stagnitta as quoted in a press release issued by Hun regarding his hiring.  more

LINE OF FIRE: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse goalie Caroline Letrent tracks a shot in a 2019 game. Letrent, the lone senior on the Stuart squad this spring, didn’t get to experience a big finale as the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Mark Maser coached his daughter Julia when she played travel lacrosse and then enjoyed watching her star for the Stuart Country Day lax program.

Over the years, Maser worked with the WW/P Lightning Lacrosse and Ultimate Lacrosse club programs before his daughter went on to play at Colby College.

This spring, when Stuart’s longtime lacrosse head coach Missy Bruvik decided to step down, Maser was ready to get into high school coaching.

“I have known Missy Bruvik for a number of years and as a parent who watched the Stuart program for many years, I thought I knew the game,” said Maser, 56, a native of Long island who played lax at the Coast Guard Academy and went on to practice law after completing his military service.

“I would get into Missy’s ear every once in a while. In conversations, I said if I ever got the time I would love to coach because I think I would do it a little bit differently.”

As he looked forward to guiding the Tartans, Maser was looking to employ an up-tempo game.

“I have a different philosophy on how to play the game,” said Maser. more

June 24, 2020

HELD BACK: The Princeton University football team gets ready to take the field last September for its season opener against Butler. The Tigers won that game 49-7 and went on to go 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League. In March, the Tigers started spring practice looking to build momentum going into the 2020 campaign. But as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ivy spring season was canceled and Princeton spent the last few months of school working virtually. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton University football team, its annual spring practices help build the foundation for the upcoming season.

The 12 sessions spread over a month give returning players a chance to step up and show their development, allow coaches a chance to tinker with schemes and lineups, and help the squad collectively develop chemistry.

But as Princeton got ready to hit the field for its first spring session in early March, head coach Bob Surace was keeping track of COVID-19 and preparing to deal with a new reality.

“I just wanted to make sure that we had a plan in case we need to go to virtual school and they shut us down,” said Surace who guided Princeton to an overall record of 8-2 (5-2 Ivy League) in 2019.

“I had some ideas and we met as a staff and the other coaches came up with some other ideas on how to work through the next few months until June.”

With the students sent home for virtual learning and all spring sports activities getting canceled, Surace and his coaches had to modify their approach.

“I told them this was a time for empathetic leadership, the players are going to have a shock to the system,” said Surace. more

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Cornell University women’s lacrosse star defender Taylor Lis, right, stymies a foe in a game this season. Former Princeton High standout Lis enjoyed a superb career at Cornell, earning honorable mention All-Ivy League honors in 2019 as a junior and then helping the Big Red get off to a 4-2 (2-0 Ivy) start this spring before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo provided courtesy of Cornell Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

During her first two years with the Cornell University women’s lacrosse team, Taylor Lis toiled as a back-up midfielder, making a total of seven appearances through her sophomore season.

But switching to defense near the end of her second campaign in 2018, former Princeton High standout Lis emerged as a star on the Cornell backline.

In her junior year, the 5’9 Lis started all 16 games, registering 11 ground balls and five caused turnovers on the way to earning honorable mention All-Ivy League honors.

This spring, Lis kept up her good work, coming up with six ground balls and three caused turnovers to help the Big Red get off to a 4-2 (2-0 Ivy) start this spring before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In reflecting on her progress, Lis sensed that getting moved to the backline would be a big plus for her.

“It was definitely a tough transition but one that I expected on a certain level,” said Lis.

“It took me a while to develop my offensive skills and then it turned out that we needed someone in the back line. That is where I liked playing the most so I transitioned into that role and that is when I started to play in every game.” more

BLUE SKY: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Skylar Mundenar goes after the ball in a 2019 game. Senior star Mundenar was primed for a big final campaign this spring before the season got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jill Thomas was expecting her Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team to experience many special moments at Smoyer Field this spring.

“They really, really had it all going on,” said PDS head coach Thomas, who guided the Panthers to an 8-7 record in 2019 as they made the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals and the state Prep B semis.

“I just knew that it was going to be one of those years. A lot of people are about stats but these guys were all about themselves and their year.”

But after two weeks of preseason, the year took a stunning turn as schools were closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the spring season was subsequently canceled.

Although the PDS players have been confined to home, they did get to enjoy a very special moment at Smoyer.

“They got to pick up their gear at school; we put it out on the bench six feet apart,” recalled Thomas.

“Tracy [assistant coach Tracy Young], myself and Kira [Dudeck], who is the JV coach, were there and we sat at Smoyer on the field six feet apart and everyone came and picked up their gear. They did all the social distancing things. That was really special to see. Google Meet is great but to actually see kids and wave and say hi was great.” more

June 17, 2020

BELIEVELAND: Kevin Davidson talks to a coach on the sideline last year last fall during his senior season for the Princeton University football team. Getting his chance to start last fall after three years as a reserve, Davidson emerged as a star, completing 209-of-313 passes for 2,569 yards and 20 touchdowns to help Princeton go 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League. In April, he signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL and is currently preparing for training camp as he looks to make the team. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kevin Davidson always believed that he was headed for the NFL even though many scoffed at that ambition during his first three years with the Princeton University football program.

Through his junior campaign at Princeton, Davidson, a 6’4, 225-pound quarterback from Danville, Calif., had made one start and had a grand total of 61 passing attempts in 19 appearances and didn’t seem to be on track to the pros.

“I got laughed at a lot on campus, both by my friends and other people, they are like you are crazy, who do you think you are, some backup that is going to go to the NFL,” said Davidson.

“I have been working for this my whole life and I know where I am at. I might not have gotten the opportunities at Princeton that I thought at first but I never lost belief and my vision for myself. It has been a thing for me ever since high school freshman year.”

Playing behind Chad Kanoff and John Lovett, who both ended up on NFL practice squads after their Tiger careers, Davidson got his opportunity to start last fall and made the most of it, completing 209-of-313 passes for 2,569 yards and 20 touchdowns to help Princeton go 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League. more

KNOCKED OFF TRACK: Matt Perello heads to the finish line in a race last spring for the Princeton High boys’ track team. The Bucknell University-bound senior star sprinter Perello was primed for a big senior campaign only to see the season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ben Samara saw a lot of positives as the Princeton High track team got its preseason training underway in early March.

“The day before we started our preseason, our girls 4×400 had just run their season-best time at the indoors Meet of Champions,” said PHS head coach Samara.

“Everybody was healthy; we were feeling really good. Our girls’ squad, in particular, had their sights set on that county championship this spring. On the guys side, we had some pretty good individuals even though we graduated most of our squad that was really placing highly last year. Matt Perello was looking really good in the sprints. Dora Servil was looking very, very good. I think he would have had a strong spring as well.”

But after a week of training, schools were closed to the COVID-19 pandemic and in early May, the spring sports season was formally canceled.

“We were just getting set up and getting into the swing of things when it became obvious that things were going to change big time,” said Samara. more

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Pete Higgins shows his game face as he posed for a picture. Longtime Princeton Day School coach and teacher Higgins passed away earlier this month, leaving a huge void in the PDS and lacrosse communities. (Photo by Andrew Lee, provided courtesy of PDS)

Pete Higgins cut an intimidating figure on the sidelines over the years for the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse program, typically wielding a stick as he barked out colorful commentary to players and officials alike.

But underneath the burly Higgins’ gruff exterior beat a heart of gold as he was legendary for his catalog of humorous stories, his connections through the lacrosse world starting with his native Long Island, and most of all, his zeal in developing his players.

So when Higgins suddenly passed away after a brief illness (unrelated to COVID-19) earlier this month at age 57, the PDS and lacrosse communities were left heartbroken.

“It is clear that he had a infectious personality, everybody loved being around Higgs, everybody loved a good Higgs story,” said PDS boys’ lax head coach Joe Moore.

“It is hard to understand how much he impacted the PDS community. I think I have fully understood that in the last couple of weeks here since he passed. It seems like everybody in the PDS community really had some sort of special connection with Higgs and you see how he touched everybody in the PDS community in some way. That is so unique.”

Working at PDS for 23 years, taking on a variety of roles from teaching health and PE, coaching varsity and middle school lacrosse, coaching middle school basketball, working in the school weight room and being involved in its peer leadership program, Higgins crossed paths with thousands of students and families over the years. Things were also busy at home for Higgins with his wife, Rebecca, and their four children, Catie, Jane, Mickey, and Quinn. more

June 10, 2020

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University men’s golf star Evan Quinn displays his driving form. Quinn, who graduated from Princeton earlier this month, enjoyed a stellar career for the Tigers. As a junior, Quinn helped Princeton win the 2019 Ivy League tournament, earning All-Ivy honors in the process. He was also a two-time PING All-Northeast Region selection. In his final campaign, Quinn produced a solid fall season, leading Princeton in three of four stroke-play events that it competed in the early stages of the 2019-20 season which saw the spring portion of the schedule canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Evan Quinn was good enough at cross country for Morristown High School to run in college but he gave it up to pour his competitive energy into golf when he came to Princeton University.

“I made a brief reappearance at the Turkey Trot this year,” said Quinn, a captain for the Princeton men’s golf team in his senior year before graduating earlier this month.

“My brother is on the varsity cross country team now so he’s in good shape. I did that, but that’s pretty much the extent of my running career since high school.”

Quinn has always been competitive in any sport in which he has participated and has typically experienced both individual and team success. He started to cultivate his golf game by the second grade, although he also played soccer and ran. In high school, he was Morris County cross country champion as a senior in a school-record 15:53 over the 5,000-meter course to lead the team to victory, and finished 11th at the 2015 Meet of Champions. After that race, he turned to golf full-time. He won the NJSIAA North 1-2, Group 4 sectional individual championship and led Morristown to the team title. Quinn had won the Group 3 sectional the previous two years.  more

SHOW OF SUPPORT: The Parker twins, Dylan, right, and Ethan, celebrate after winning a point in a match last spring for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team. After playing doubles last year, the junior standouts were primed to move up to singles spots in the lineup for the Tigers before the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Parkers and the rest of the squad have been supporting each other virtually as they look to foster team camaraderie in the lost season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the lineup of her Princeton High boys’ tennis team getting reshuffled due to graduation losses, Sarah Hibbert wasn’t sure what to expect this spring.

“It would have been interesting to see because we did lose three of our starters from last year’s lineup,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, who guided the Tigers to an 11-5 campaign in 2019 as they advanced to the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final.

“We did have a freshman, Jonathan Gu, come in who was going to be playing singles based on the challenge matches we had done in the first couple of days. It looked like the Parker twins, Dylan and Ethan, were also going to be at singles but we had only gotten through one round of challenge matches. That would have given us strength at the top.”

But PHS never got to show its strength as it only got five days on the courts before school was closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March and weeks later the spring season was formally canceled.

“We had a week of preseason, I had established the team from 48 down to 20 in four days,” said Hibbert.

“In some ways it made it easier because we had established that you guys are the ones that are going to play this season so at the point that we went virtual at least I had set the team so it wasn’t oh like you might have still been cut.” more

NEXT LEVEL PERFORMERS: Jomar Meekins, left, defends a foe in a game this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team during his senior campaign and Brianna Astbury tracks the ball last fall in action for the PDS girls’ soccer team. They are two of 14 Panther student-athletes who graduated last week and will be continuing their athletic careers at the college level. Meekins is headed to Bard College where he will be playing for its men’s basketball program while Astbury is going to Muhlenberg College and will compete for its women’s soccer program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the high school spring sports season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a group of 14 accomplished athletes at the Princeton Day School will get to continue their athletic careers at the college level.

Having honored its senior athletes all spring on social media, PDS recognized those stellar performers headed to college sports programs last week as the school prepared for its graduation ceremony that took place on June 6.

The female standouts who will continue their athletic careers at the next level include field hockey stars Caroline Haggerty and Lexie Hausheer, a quartet of soccer stalwarts Brianna Astbury, Riley Felsher, Ariana Jones and Tulsi Pari, volleyball player Brynna Fisher, and lacrosse standout Ellie Schofield.

As for the male athletes, those headed to college sports programs include lacrosse stars Jake Bennett and Cal Caputo, baseball standout John Carroll, and a trio of basketball stalwarts, Jaylin Champion-Adams, Lucas Green, and Jomar Meekins.

In reflecting on this group of athletes, outgoing PDS Upper School Athletic Director Tim Williams lauded them for their impact over the past four years.

“It’s always a bittersweet time of year to congratulate your seniors on their accomplishments and see them depart, and for our seniors this spring, the same holds true,” said Williams. more