November 25, 2020

DEVIL OF A TIME: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Petruso, left, boots the ball up the field last Saturday as top-seeded PHS battled second-seeded Hunterdon Central in the Central West Group 4 sectional final. Senior star Petruso and the Tigers generated a number of scoring chances but were thwarted as the visiting Red Devils pulled out a 1-0 win. The defeat left PHS with a final record of 9-3-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

A vivid memory of Nick Petruso’s freshman season on the Princeton High boys’ soccer team in 2017 came when he helped the Tigers edge Hunterdon Central 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional final on a bone-chilling November afternoon.

“That game was extremely difficult,” said Petruso. “We won in overtime.”

So when top-seeded PHS hosted second-seeded Hunterdon Central in the Central West Group 4 sectional final last Saturday, Petruso wasn’t surprised to see the Red Devils put the Tigers under intense pressure in the early stages of the contest.

“Those kids came out strong in the beginning, it was a battle,” said senior striker Petruso. “We made some tough tackles, they were strong.”

With its strong defense stepping up, PHS weathered the storm on the pleasant 60 degree day, thwarting Hunterdon Central as the foes were knotted in a scoreless draw at halftime.

After Hunterdon Central scored to break the ice with 36:48 left in the second half, PHS responded by generating a number of strong chances but couldn’t break through as it ultimately fell 1-0.  more

WILLPOWER: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Will Novak, left, controls the ball against Hunterdon Central last Saturday in the Central West Group 4 sectional final. Top-seeded PHS ended up falling 1-0 the second-seeded Red Devils. Two days earlier, senior midfielder Novak scored two goals to help the Tigers defeat fifth-seeded Hightstown 5-0 in the sectional semis. PHS ended 2020 campaign with a 9-3-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Will Novak wasn’t looking to be a hero as the Princeton High boys’ soccer team hosted Hightstown in the Central West Group 4 sectional semifinals last Wednesday.

Instead, after missing all of the 2019 season and most of the previous campaign due to injury, senior midfielder Novak was thrilled just to be on the pitch for the game.

“I was cleared at the end of last year; I spent this whole past year just training and trying to get back in shape and focusing on rehab,” said Novak, whose twin brother James and younger brother Charles also play for PHS.

“My mentality is a little different than everybody else’s. If I can be on the field, you can put me anywhere and I am going to be happy to be there. I am taking every opportunity I have to do what I can to help the team. I am loving every second of it.”

Against Hightstown, Novak seized opportunity, scoring a pair of first half goals to help PHS take a 2-0 lead and the Tigers never looked back on the way to a 5-0 triumph and a spot in the sectional final against Hunterdon Central. more

SEEING RED: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Vanessa Ponce, center, slots the ball up the field last Wednesday as fourth-seeded PHS hosted fifth-seeded Ridge in the Central West C (Group 4) sectional quarterfinals. PHS fell 3-0 to the Red Devils, the eventual sectional champion, to end the fall with a 9-3-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Moments after the Princeton High girls’ soccer team fell 3-0 to Ridge in the Central West C (Group 4) sectional quarterfinals last Wednesday, several players huddled together for a group cry on the frigid afternoon.

In a season that almost didn’t happen due to COVID-19 concerns, the PHS players developed deep bonds as their time together became a daily highlight in a difficult fall.

“We were such a close group of kids and coaches, this team means a lot to me,” said PHS head coach Val Rodriguez, whose squad ended the fall with a 9-3-1 record.

“I have known some of the seniors for eight years, some of them I coached back when they were in fifth grade. Some of the families, I have been coaching for 12 years now. So this team coming together with COVID and all of that, losing the game hurts. But it hurts differently this year because now the one thing that we are in-person for and feel genuine about is over.” more

November 18, 2020

PACK MENTALITY: Members of the Princeton High girls’ cross country take off in a race this fall. Last Saturday, 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. Pictured are Yana Medvedeva (left rear), Emma Lips (left foreground), Lucy Kreipke (middle), Kyleigh Tangen (hidden in the back), Sofia DaCruz (front right), and Robin Roth (far right). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Yana Medvedeva felt an extra push being a senior as she competed in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 4 sectional cross country championship meet at Thompson Park last Saturday.

One of four seniors in the Princeton High girls’ lineup, Medvedeva closed out the Tigers scoring in 22nd place as PHS put its first four finishers in the top 10 to win their first CJ Group 4 sectional crown in school history.

“It feels so good,” said Medvedeva after a season-best 20:55.70 clocking. “It’s amazing. I’m a senior so it’s a really full circle moment. Two years ago, we couldn’t even qualify out of the section. I still can’t really believe it.”

The Tigers’ depth allowed them to edge a strong Montgomery team that had the top two individual finishers in the race. As for PHS, Charlotte Gilmore, a senior, led the way in fourth place in 19:32.50. Freshman Kyleigh Tangen – the lone newcomer to the Tigers’ top seven from a year ago – placed sixth in 19:59.30 and sophomore Lucy Kreipke was seventh in 20:04.50. Sophomore Robin Roth closed well for 10th place in 20:16.70. Medvedeva was 22nd, Sofia Dacruz was 33rd, and Emma Lips was 38th. It added up to a 49-54 win over runner-up Montgomery. Hunterdon Central was third with 100 points.

“We knew the race was going to come down to how tight our pack was,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.  more

HOLDING THE FORT: Princeton High field hockey goalie Franke deFaria, left, and Grace Rebak thwart a foe in recent action. Last Monday, junior deFaria made four saves in a losing cause as third-seeded PHS fell 1-0 to sixth-seeded Hillsborough in the Central West B sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 8-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With its season on the line, the Princeton High field hockey displayed its battling spirit.

Trailing sixth-seeded Hillsborough 1-0 in the waning moments of the Central West B sectional quarterfinals, third-seeded PHS generated three penalty corners right before and then after the buzzer.

While it looked like the Tigers scored on the third corner as the ball apparently trickled into the cage, a violation was called and PHS got a penalty stroke. Olivia Weir took the shot but it was turned away by Hillsborough goalie Niyati Ramanathan and the Tigers saw their 2020 campaign end with a disappointing 1-0 defeat.

PHS head coach Heather Serverson liked the way her squad scrapped at the end but wished that intensity had been more constant.

“Clearly when they realized that this might be our last game, they picked it up a bit,” said Serverson, whose team posted a final record of 8-2.

“They fought to the end, they did everything they could. We needed to do that for a larger duration of the game.”

Serverson acknowledged that Hillsborough played aggressively throughout the contest.

“I think Hillsborough did a better job than we did of moving to the ball,” said Serverson. more

BIG GUN: Gunnar Clingman shows his form this fall in his final season with the Princeton Day School boys’ cross country team. Clingman solidified his place as one of the top runners in program history, helping the Panthers go 4-3 and setting a PDS course record on two occasions. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Gunnar Clingman, producing a breakthrough season as a junior in 2019 put him on course to become one of the top runners in the history of the Princeton Day School boys’ cross country program.

Leading the pack for PDS, Clingman made steady improvement throughout that fall, culminating by taking second at the state Prep B state championship meet, clocking a time of 16:53 over the 5,000-meter course at the Blair Academy.

“I had run a 17:40 as a freshman, that was a one-off day, it was an outlier; my first race as a junior was two seconds off of that,” said Clingman, who took up running as a middle schooler.

“That was kind of ‘wow.’ I was progressing race by race and I kept going until the states. I went into states with a really good  mindset. I talked myself up to that so when I went out with Charlie [Charlie Koenig of Montclair Kimberley Academy] in the state race, I stayed up with him. He ended up taking me, he was a very strong runner. That was the moment where I was ready to keep going.”

With COVID-19 concerns leading to a limited 2020 season and the cancellation of state prep or county championship meets, Clingman turned his focus to the PDS pack.  more

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COLLEGE FAIR: Stuart Country Day School senior basketball star Laila Fair (seated) signs a letter of intent to attend Saint Joseph’s University and play for its Division I women’s hoops program. Pictured with Fair, from left, are Miles Fair, Lamar Fair, Rhetta Jack, and Zoe Fair. (Photo provided by Stuart Country Day School)

By Bill Alden

Laila Fair and Ariel Jenkins have beaten the odds when it comes to extending their basketball careers to the next level.

The two Stuart Country Day School senior hoops standouts have committed to attend Division I colleges and play for their women’s basketball programs with Fair heading to Saint Joseph’s and Jenkins on her way to Georgetown.

In a ceremony held in the Stuart gym last Wednesday to celebrate their achievements, Tartan basketball head coach Justin Leith noted how rare it is for a high school player to get that opportunity.

“It was just really nice, everyone was so happy for the girls,” said Leith reflecting on the ceremony.

“In the talk that I gave beforehand, I congratulated both families because it is a significant accomplishment. You go by the statistics, one percent of high school players get a college scholarship. So out of something like 500,000 players, 495,000 kids don’t get that opportunity and only 5,000 do.”

Fair, for her part, has been very diligent in pursuing that opportunity.

“Laila has put the time in; she has a tremendous work ethic,” said Leith of the 6’3 forward who piled up 265 points, 313 rebounds, and 66 blocked shots last winter as Stuart went 18-4, winning its third straight state Prep B title and advancing to the final of the Mercer County Tournament for the first time in program history. more

November 11, 2020

RISING STAR: Princeton High football player Jaiden Johnson snags an interception in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior receiver/defensive back Johnson, who is in his first season playing football, scored a touchdown on an 86-yard kickoff return in a losing cause as PHS fell 61-20 to Scotch Plains-Fanwood. The Tigers, now 1-4, host New Egypt (3-1) on November 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming into the fall, Jaiden Johnson was an unknown quantity for the Princeton High football team.

Having played on the JV boys’ soccer team in his first two years at PHS, Johnson switched to football for the 2020 season.

“I just felt like I had a lot of potential playing football,” said Johnson.

“I decided to make the change. I haven’t played before, this is my first official year ever.”

In taking up football, Johnson had a special influence in his father, Marquis Johnson, a 1994 PHS alum and star athlete for the Tigers who was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

“My dad played football, there is definitely genes there,” said Johnson.

“In the offseason, me and my dad worked our butts off to get the result. He pushed me as hard as I could. I gained about 15-20 pounds.”

Starting at both wide receiver and defensive back, Johnson has gotten a crash course on football through the first month of the 2020 campaign.

“This is the fifth game. These past four games were learning games,” said Johnson. more

STICKING TOGETHER: Stuart Country Day School field hockey players Morgan John, left, and Catherine Martin celebrate after a goal in recent action. Seniors John and Martin helped set a positive tone for Stuart as it posted a 5-3-1 record this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team suffered a pair of one-goal defeats in its last two games of the season, Missy Bruvik was proud of how her players competed to the end.

“We played really hard in both games, we never quit,” said Stuart head coach Bruvik, whose squad fell 2-1 to Bordentown on November 2 and 1-0 to Princeton Day School two days later to end the season at 5-3-1.

“It would have been nice to win one of those last two games. I know the kids felt they gave their best effort.”

In reflecting in the stretch run, Bruvik acknowledged that Stuart struggled to finish in the circle.

“We didn’t score a lot of goals in general all year; we had a lot of 1-0 games,” said Bruvik.

“I also give a lot of credit to the keepers, I could tell that they were getting better too as the season went on. On our corners, we would get them off. We didn’t score off of rebounds, we practiced that.”

While Bruvik may have hoped for better results in the final week of the season, the positives of getting to play nine games in the face of COVID-19 protocols and restrictions is far more meaningful than a win-loss record. more

PERFECT STORM: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ cross country team show off the spoils of victory after they placed first in the Girls’ Varsity White race at the XC 7-on-7 Invitational meet at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. The victory at the meet was one of many highlights in a special fall which saw the squad post an 11-0 record and won two invitational meets. Pictured, from left, are assistant coach Kelly Grosskurth, head coach John Woodside, Madeline Weinstein, Emily McCann, Alex Hollander, MacKenzie Mazzarisi, assistant coach Chris Devlin, Brooke Law, Maddy Flory, and Harleen Sandhu. (Photo provided by Chris Devlin/PDS)

By Bill Alden

Alex Hollander was prepared for a rocky ride this fall in her senior season for the Princeton Day School girls’ cross country team.

“I was feeling pretty anxious and nervous,” said team co-captain Hollander, noting that PDS had lost some key runners from the 2019 squad who were expected to come back.

“I knew we were going to have a full team because the roster showed that but I hadn’t heard of people who were signed up because they were new freshmen. I definitely wasn’t expecting a good season.”

But the addition of three freshman, Emily McCann, Brooke Law, and Harleen Sandhu, helped ease Hollander’s nerves as the trio excelled from the start of preseason training.

“It lifted my mindset for the year because you are starting off with something so uncertain to begin with because of all of the restrictions,” said Hollander. more

STROKE OF BRILLIANCE: Hun School girls’ tennis player Sophia Lin hits a backhand in a match this fall. Senior co-captain Lin starred at second singles for the Raiders, helping Hun post a 3-2-2 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Joan Nuse took the helm of the Hun School girls’ tennis team in 1987 and guided it to nine Mercer County Tournament titles, three Prep B State crowns, three Prep A State championships, and three Mid-Atlantic Prep League championships, earning a spot in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Taking an eight-year hiatus from the program, Nuse coached the Hun boys’ tennis squad for one season and then became the head coach of the Raider swimming team for the next seven years.

This fall, with Hun not having a coach for the girls’ tennis team as the fall approached, Nuse agreed to return for a second act.

“It was interesting to be back, I hadn’t expected to be even doing it,” said Nuse.

“It has been awhile since I have done the girls. I really enjoyed coaching with Ian McNally. He was a lot of fun.” more

By Justin Feil

While Michael Gavin has played on both sides of the ball in his high school career, he was excited to focus on defense this fall as he joined the Hun School football team.

“Last year, I played more offense, but I’ve been much better at defense,” said junior defensive lineman Gavin, who transferred to Hun from the Haverford School (Pa.).

“To play mainly defense this year was new to me, I hadn’t done that since my sophomore year. I played a little bit of it last year, but I’m much better at it than offense.”

Gavin helped to solidify the Raiders defensive line that held Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) in check for a 16-13 win Saturday to end their season. Down 13-8 at halftime despite a Dom DeLuzio 1-yard touchdown run, the Raiders rallied in the second half. Ahmad Dixon’s 35-yard touchdown run gave Hun the lead and a safety on a bad punt snap by Wyoming added some insurance as the Raiders closed their 2020 season at 3-3 overall. more

November 4, 2020

NET GAIN: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Lucia Marckioni makes a volley in action last Wednesday in the Central West A (Group 4) sectional quarterfinals. Juniors Marckioni and Sophia Kim posted a straight-set win at first doubles to help top-seeded PHS edge eighth-seeded Watchung Hills 3-2. A day later,Marckioni and Kim earned another win in their flight but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 3-2 to fourth-seeded Hunterdon Central in the sectional semis. PHS finished the fall with a 12-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Losing four seniors from a squad that went 14-1 in 2019 and with COVID-19 concerns putting the fall season in doubt, there were a lot of question marks surrounding the Princeton High girls’ tennis team this year.

But with Princeton school officials giving the go-ahead to the 2020 campaign and freshmen Shaila Iyer and Eva Lependorf emerging as stars at first and second singles, respectively, PHS answered those questions, producing an 11-0 regular season record and winning the Colonial Valley Conference title.

“Just being able to get out on the court this season was really nice for everyone,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert.

“We were really impressed with how our regular season went. We didn’t lose a single flight during the regular season when people played in their correct positions.”

While PHS didn’t get to play on its home court for the Central West A (Group 4) sectional quarterfinals as damp courts moved the match to the Mercer County Park indoor tennis complex, the top-seeded Tigers edged eighth-seeded Watchung Hills 3-2.

“The win over Watchung Hills was very exciting; I am proud of the way the middle of the lineup was able to be solid for us,” said Hibbert, who got wins in the match from Eva Lependorf at second singles, junior Bella Lependorf at third singles, and the pair of juniors Lucia Marckioni and Sophia Kim at first doubles.

“I told the girls going into this match that they are going to be strong and to be prepared for that, don’t look at the record.” more

HEAD IN THE GAME: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Vanessa Ponce heads the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior midfielder Ponce tallied a goal to help PHS defeat Ewing 6-0. On Saturday, Ponce added another goal as the Tigers defeated Hightstown 3-0. PHS, now 6-2-1, hosts Lawrence High on November 4 before playing at Trenton Central on November 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Vanessa Ponce strives to jump start things offensively for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team from her spot in the midfield.

“I like controlling the ball, I just want to make sure that the tempo is right,” said senior midfielder Ponce.

“We are out here to play. We are taking it game by game. We have to take every opportunity and really make sure that we are taking advantage of that to be better.”

Last Wednesday, Ponce helped PHS take advantage of its opportunities, tallying a goal and doing some nifty playmaking as the Tigers defeated Ewing 6-0.

“We were just looking to get back to the place we were at the beginning of the season,” said Ponce.

“This game was kind of like Hamilton West (a 6-0 win on October 3). I think we did a good job.”

In the victory over Ewing, four other Tigers besides Ponce found the back of the net with junior Sophia Lis tallying two goals and an assist, freshman Casey Serxner notching a goal and an assist, and junior Megan Rougas and freshman Holly Howes chipping in one goal apiece.

“I think it helps with the team dynamic; it brings us ever closer because we try to put each other in the best positions as possible,” said Ponce, reflecting on the balanced scoring. “That is what makes it fun.” more

SUPER SUB: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Richard Wegmann brings the ball upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Wegmann came off the bench and scored two goals to help PHS defeat Hightstown 3-0. The Tigers, now 5-1-1, play at Lawrence High on November 4 before hosting Trenton Central on November 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Richard Wegmann may not be a starter for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team but he is emerging as a game-changing performer for the squad.

Last Saturday against visiting Hightstown, sophomore forward Wegmann came off the bench to tally a pair of first half goals as PHS went on to a 3-0 win over the Rams, improving to 5-1-1.

In reflecting on his reserve role, Wegmann enjoys bringing a change of pace for the Tigers.

“I am rested and I am ready,” said Wegmann. “I can come on and it is a bit of a surprise because I play a little differently than our other strikers. It is the dynamic of having two choices which is good for us. The coaches are telling me what I can do. If we are making some mistakes, they will point them out to me and I can try to make it better.”

Against Hightstown, Wegmann came on with 25:42 left in the first half and converted a feed from senior Ian Pompliano five minutes later for his first goal. With 13:13 left before halftime, Wegmann knocked in another one, keeping his focus in the middle of a traffic jam around the box.

“It was a great effort by Ian and I was lucky to be in the right spot,” said Wegmann, recalling his first tally. more

GOING TO GOAL: Princeton Day School field hockey player Haley Sullivan dribbles the ball up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, junior forward Sullivan scored two goals to help PDS defeat Hun School 4-1. The Panthers, now 2-5, host Stuart Country Day on November 4 and then play at Bordentown on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was chilly last Saturday morning with the temperature hovering in the high 30s but Haley Sullivan kept warm by repeatedly charging to goal for the Princeton Day School field hockey team as it hosted Hun.

“That is my thing; I like getting those big open breaks and trying to get it in,” said PDS junior forward Sullivan.

Sparking the Panthers, Sullivan fired in two goals for PDS as the Panthers pulled away to a 4-1 win over the Raiders, improving to 2-5.

Sullivan and her teammates were determined to turn the table on Hun, having lost 2-1 to their local foes on October 23.

“We just had the energy back up, we were missing a few players last week so it was good to get everyone back,” said Sullivan. “It is good to come out and get a win.”

PDS displayed energy from the start, jumping out to a 1-0 lead with 9:27 left in the first quarter on a goal by Tessa Caputo. Early in the second period, Sullivan doubled the lead with her first tally of the day. A goal by junior Ally Antonacci increased the PDS margin to 3-0 midway through the quarter.

“We started off strong, we just wanted to get out and get a goal,” said Sullivan.

“We were defending much better, we were talking a lot more, connecting our passes and then getting those corners and getting them in goal.” more

WHIP SMART: Jim Stagnitta surveys the action in his role as the head coach of the Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse league (PLL). Stagnitta guided the Whipsnakes to a 12-6 win over the Chaos in the final of the PLL Championship Series this August. Now, Stagnitta is bringing his championship approach to the Hun School boys’ lacrosse program as he will be serving as the head coach of the Raiders. (Photo provided by the Hun School)

By Bill Alden

Over the last month or so, four pro leagues have crowned champions in playoff bubbles prompted by COVID-19 concerns with the Tampa Bay Lightning taking the Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA title, the Seattle Storm prevailing in the WNBA, and the Los Angeles Dodgers coming through in the World Series.

Back in August, Jim Stagnitta showed how to coach a team to a championship in a bubble, guiding the Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club to the title in the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship Series held in Utah as they defeated the Chaos 12-6 in the title game.

For Whipsnakes head coach Stagnitta, keeping his team fresh mentally and physically was the main focus as the players were sequestered in Herriman, Utah from July 25-August 9.

“I think the challenge once you were there was literally about finding that balance between being able to train our guys and have practice but not overdo it,” said Stagnitta, noting that his team ended up playing six games in 15 days, going 6-0 on the way to the championship.

“Right from the beginning, even training camp, we worked on keeping them healthy. We never had a guy miss a game; we were the only team that didn’t have a guy miss a game. It was keeping that balance of keeping them sharp and continuing to play better and keeping everybody healthy and rested.”

With the Whipsnakes having won the title in the PLL’s inaugural season last year, coming up with an encore performance under the unique circumstances of 2020 was special. more

October 28, 2020

LEADING FROM THE BACK: Princeton High field hockey player Grace Rebak, right, fights for the ball in a game earlier this fall. Junior star defender and co-captain Rebak has helped PHS produce a 7-0 start. The Tigers host Hightstown on October 29 before playing at Lawrence High on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Grace Rebak moved to the middle of the defense for the Princeton High field hockey team last fall and has now assumed a central role for the squad.

“I played left back my freshman year and then I started playing center back my sophomore year,” said PHS junior star and co-captain Rebak.

“Now junior year, I am just having a voice back there along with my goalie [Frankie deFaria]. We are talking really well this year and we are communicating really well.”

Last week, PHS talked the talk and walked the walk, edging Allentown 1-0 in a tense encounter on October 20.

“They are our rival so we get really pumped for this game every year,” said Rebak.

“Our team is coming out really strong this year. Last year we lost to them so we just wanted to come back and fight against them. It was definitely a tough battle today. Our defensive line was getting a lot of action; we actually haven’t had a lot of action in these past few games.”

Rebak got into the action at the offensive end, making several forays into the circle. more

BORN TO RUN: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Jacob Bornstein displays his form in a recent race. Senior star Bornstein is setting the pace for PHS this fall as runner and a leader. The Tigers are next in action when they compete on October 30 at the Reed/Byrne Farm in Ewing. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jacob Bornstein’s high school career began as the fifth finisher on the Princeton High School boys’ cross country squad that won the 2017 New Jersey freshman state championship race at Thompson Park.

It is ending with the PHS senior at the top of the Tigers varsity lineup, assuming a leadership role, competing among the best in the county and sectional, and trying to leave a legacy after four years of growth.

“We all worked really hard together that year as freshmen,” said Bornstein.

“We were very fortunate to win the title. I’ve just been putting in the same effort each year. Things have been going really well for me. Unfortunately with some of my other teammates from my freshman crew, they haven’t been doing so well with their health because some of them have injuries. It happens. I haven’t been injured recently – some minor knee issues earlier this summer. I’m doing what I’ve always done and running as best that I can.”

Over the years, Bornstein has made steady progress. He jumped from fifth on the freshman team to fifth on the varsity as a sophomore after the team graduated some key runners, becoming a dependable runner who emerged over the season.

“We nicknamed him ‘Wubby’ and it was an idea that no matter how bad it got, he would be there,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk. “That’s where it started and all of a sudden he started doing things like winning races and we were saying, where did that come from? You’re supposed to be the security blanket and you’re setting the tone. Last year, coming out of cross country and going into winter, that’s when we really started to see him evolve.” more

IN SYNC: Hayden Masia, left, and Hannah Van Dusen encourage each other during a recent match at first doubles for the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team. The pair of seniors, who won the state Prep B title at first doubles in 2019, have helped PDS produce an 8-0 start this fall in their final campaign. The Panthers play at Pennington on October 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Familiarity is breeding success for Hayden Masia and Hannah Van Dusen as they play their final season at first doubles for the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team.

Having won the state Prep B title at first doubles in 2019, the pair has helped PDS produce an 8-0 start this fall in their senior campaign.

Last Friday, Masia and Van Dusen displayed their cohesiveness, posting a 6-2, 6-2 win over Amelie Halgan and Gia Villegas of Pennington as the Panthers prevailed 4-1.

“Throughout the season, one of our main focuses has been making sure our points are structured to our advantage,” said Masia, noting that the pair also played a few matches together as freshmen.

“For example, Hannah is really really good at putting balls away at the net and I am more of a baseliner. So especially on my serve, it is a good set up. We have been working on that throughout the season. I think it really showed today that you set up the point in such a way that you know Hannah can finish the point and be done with it. It works well as a pair better than individually.”

Van Dusen enjoys closing the deal on volleys. “We try to finish points at the net,” said Van Dusen. more

GETTING AFTER IT: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Catherine Martin, right, goes after the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior star and co-captain Martin scored three goals to power Stuart to a 4-1 win over Princeton Day School. The Tartans, who fell 1-0 to South Hunterdon last Saturday to move 4-1-1, are next in action when they host Bordentown on November 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Catherine Martin and her teammates on the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team brought a special sense of urgency as they hosted Princeton Day School last Wednesday.

Having not defeated PDS in years and seeing their 2019 season end with a 1-0 loss to the Panthers in the state Prep B semifinals, the Tartans were primed to turn the tables on their neighbors across the Great Road.

“It has been so long since we beat them, it has been about seven years,” said senior forward and co-captain Martin.

“I remember four years ago when we just scored our first goal on them. We have improved so much. We were ready, we brought it all.”

Martin set the tone, scoring two goals in the first quarter as the Tartans jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

“I was so determined, I knew we had to score,” said Martin. “It did feel good. It is like a runner’s high; the game is good, everyone is playing well.”

Stuart kept playing well, pulling away to a 4-1 victory over the Panthers.

“There was great energy the whole game,” said Martin. “I remember one time in the second half where we were getting a little messy. We came together and started controlling the game again with our possession.”

Martin achieved a hat trick, slotting the ball into the goal with 8:52 left in the third quarter, moments after tumbling to the turf on a collision in the circle.

“I was a little bit woozy, I hit my head,” recalled Martin. “The ball was next to me so I shot it.”

Keeping their heads, the Stuart players used their possession game to hold off PDS in the fourth quarter and break their losing streak to the Panthers. more

GROWING THE GAME: Keith Stewart, left, presides over a youth event at the Springdale Golf Club. Stewart, the head golf professional at Springdale since 2009, recently won the NJPGA’s Bill Strausbaugh Award, which recognizes a golf pro who displays outstanding integrity, character, and leadership through a commitment to mentoring and making significant impacts on the careers of PGA professionals. Stewart is known around the club as the “Director of Fun.” (Photo provided by Keith Stewart)

By Bill Alden

Before taking over as the head golf professional at the Springdale Golf Club in 2009, Keith Stewart was steeped in the traditions of the game with broad experience in managing prestigious venues.

Upon arriving in Princeton, Stewart’s resume included stops at The Ridge Club in Sandwich, Mass., Brae Burn Country Club in Newton, Mass., Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, Fla., and the Warwick Country Club in Warwick, R.I.

But it was a stint working part-time at Walt Disney World in Orlando that had a major impact on his approach as he took the helm at Springdale.

“I needed money to make ends meet when I was working at Isleworth so I moonlighted by working at Disney World and I had to go through all of their training,” said Stewart.

“It is so brilliant in how you handle things. They have no members, they have to make everyone come back. Mine will come back, they have paid for the year. We have always tried to have a mindset here that we want to treat people such that we know that they are not guaranteed to come back. We will get to know them and treat their families the best we can.”

Treating people well over the last 11 years has led Stewart to earn a number of honors, including four NJPGA Section Awards and being named the NJPGA Golf Professional of the Year in 2019.

Earlier this year, Stewart added another accolade, getting chosen as the winner of the NJPGA’s Bill Strausbaugh Award, which honors a golf pro who displays outstanding integrity, character, and leadership through a commitment to mentoring and making significant impacts on the careers of PGA professionals. more

October 21, 2020

IYER LEVEL PLAY: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Shaila Iyer hits a backhand in a recent match. Freshman Iyer has starred at first singles, helping PHS produce a 10-0 start. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Shaila Iyer is ahead of schedule when it comes to her role on the Princeton High girls’ tennis team.

Ascending to the first singles spot in the PHS lineup this fall as a freshman, Iyer has even surprised herself.

“I didn’t even think I would be on varsity this year, let alone be No. 1,” said Iyer.

“For me and my mom, when we started tennis, our goal was to get to varsity as a junior.”

Last Saturday against visiting Hightstown, Iyer showed how she can be a force at the varsity level, posting a 6-3, 6-0 win over Diana Kalajdzic to help the Tigers defeat the Rams 5-0 in a battle of teams that brought 8-0 records into the match.

“They beat us for the past four years and last year was the first time we won,” said Iyer. “We are really excited.” more

LATE SALVO: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Kelly Beal kicks the ball up the field in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star Beal scored the game-winning goal with 51 seconds remaining in regulation as PDS edged Bishop Eustace 3-2. The Panthers, who defeated Moorestown Friends 3-0 last Monday in improving to 4-1, host Montgomery on October 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kelly Beal struggled to get herself free around goal as the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team hosted Bishop Eustace last Thursday.

For much of the contest, speedy PDS senior forward Beal got stymied on runs from the flank.

“It was kind of difficult to get me the ball this game but it is just how it happened,” said Beal.

It came as no surprise to Beal and her teammates that they got a difficult game as they faced Bishop Eustace.

“Coming into the game we knew that they were going to be tough competitors,” said Beal.

“Maybe that rattled us a little bit coming in because this whole season matters so much to us because we never know when it is going to end.”

PDS jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal by junior Ali Surace with 33:39 left in the first half but the Crusaders answered back with a tally four minutes later to knot the game at 1-1. The Panthers went ahead 2-1 on a goal by freshman Adriana Salzano late in the first half.

Just after halftime, Bishop Eustace found the back of the net to make to 2-2, putting the Panthers on their heels. But in the waning moments of the contest the Panthers started to find a rhythm. more