July 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

June 3, 2020

TOUGH TO TAKE: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cal Caputo heads to goal in a game last year. Senior attacker and co-captain Caputo was primed for a big finale as PDS was shooting for a fifth straight Mercer County Tournament title before the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Caputo will get to continue his lacrosse career at the next level as he has committed to attend Williams College and play for its men’s lax program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team headed into the second week of preseason this March, Joe Moore sensed that things were coming together for his squad.

“It was going well; in first few weeks, we spend a lot of time filling in the gaps from the guys that left the year earlier,” said second year head coach Moore, who guided PDS to a 13-3 record last spring and the program’s fourth straight Mercer County Tournament title.

“We graduated a lot of guys on offense last year, especially in the midfield, so we were trying in the early part of the season to identify guys who could fill those holes. We were actually getting more and more excited about the season as time went on because we were seeing all of those holes being filled and new guys stepping up.”

With senior stars and co-captains Cal Caputo and Jake Bennett leading the attack, PDS was primed for another championship campaign.

“Without being too cocky about it but for our guys it is an expectation for our team with four counties in a row, especially for guys like Cal and Jake who have been around for four years,” said Moore, whose other senior co-captains included Andrew Ciccarone and Kevin Dougherty.

“They have gotten three so for them to go out and finish on a high note was something that they definitely wanted to do.” more

MOVING FORWARD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Ben Quinones races upfield in a game last spring. Senior star and captain Quinones had led the way for PHS on and off the field as the 2020 season was halted in mid-March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having failed to qualify for the state tournament the last two seasons, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team was bringing a lot of hunger into the 2020 campaign.

“We did a lot of really good work in the offseason; we did a lot of leadership reading and had discussions,” said PHS head coach Chip Casto, who led the Tigers to a 6-9 record last year.

“I usually post a note every day of the season outside of my classroom but this year the seniors wanted to start posting notes earlier and said let’s count down so we started with 100 days to go. We have been really looking forward to this year coming off the last two years of not even making the state tournament. It is just uncharacteristic so they were itching to get back.”

PHS got back on the field for a week in March before school was closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and weeks later the season was formally canceled.

With the players working from home, the team’s veterans have kept things together. more

May 27, 2020

THE RIGHT STUFF: Princeton High baseball player Jason Ramirez fires a pitch in a 2019 game. Senior Ramirez had assumed a leadership role for PHS this season, being selected as a tri-captain along with classmates Judd Petrone and Gautam Chawla. The trio has stepped up to keep the Tiger players on the same page after the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Heading into his second season at the helm of the Princeton High baseball team, Dom Capuano liked the vibe around the squad.

“We had 45 people try out and we had cuts; while making cuts is never fun, it is good that the program is growing,” said PHS head coach Capuano, who guided the Tigers to a 9-13 record in 2019 as it won six of its last eight games and advanced to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals.

“We were excited. We lost some stuff from last year but I don’t think the team makeup was going to be that much different.”

Capuano credited his group of seniors — Jason Ramirez, Judd Petrone, Gautam Chawla, Brian Frost, Aidan Regan, Enoch Zeng, and Connor Parish — with setting a positive tone.

“I didn’t take over until basically almost February last year so there wasn’t the ability for those seniors to work in what we are trying to do now with the culture,” said Capuano.

“With this group of seniors, especially, the captains (Ramirez, Petrone, and Chawla) ran with it, leading the workouts and everything. They did an excellent job.” more

TAGLINE: Hun School softball player Gigi Venizelos looks to tag a baserunner in a game last spring. Senior star and Colgate University-bound Venizelos was poised for a big final campaign before the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Led by a trio of battle-tested and dedicated seniors, the Hun School softball team was bringing high hopes into this spring.

“I thought it was a promising season, our seniors did such a great job, working out this fall and winter,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, whose Class of 2020 featured Gigi Venizelos, Abby Zucatti, and Jackie Drozd.

The Raiders did see some game action on their annual preseason trip to Florida.

“We did a get a chance to go to Florida and play two games down there,” said Quirk, whose team went 9-6 in 2019 as it advanced to the state Prep A semifinals.

“We were starting to jell, we were young. Of the pitchers we had on the mound, one was a freshman and one was a sophomore. We had a freshman at first base, who was very similar to Meg Donohue and we had a new sophomore at shortstop.”

But the trip was cut short due to concerns stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak and the season was subsequently canceled, leaving Quirk feeling particularly sad for her veterans. more

May 20, 2020

MAKING STRIDES: Mariana Lopez-Ona heads up the field last year in her senior season for the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team. This past spring, Lopez-Ona made her debut for the University of Michigan women’s lacrosse team, tallying one goal in three appearances for the Wolverines as they went 5-1 before their season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Mariana Lopez-Ona started from day one of her career with the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team in the spring of 2016 and ended up tallying more than 300 goals over the next four seasons.

Heading to the University of Michigan last fall to join its Division I women’s lacrosse program, things didn’t come so easily for Lopez-Ona.

“The college game is just so much different and faster,” said Lopez-Ona, a 5’9 midfielder.

“There is a lot more work involved in bringing it up to that level. When you start playing outside of the high school realm, it is just a shock when you first get there.”

In dealing with those challenges, Lopez-Ona found she was able to lean on her teammates.

“One of the most beneficial things is that it is somewhat different from high school because everyone is so insanely supportive of each other,” said Lopez-Ona.

“You are all going through the run test and tough coaching together and you are basically living together. If you are having a bad day at practice, your teammates are there to pick you up.”

Former PHS teammate and star goalie for Michigan, Mira Shane, also helped to pick up Lopez-Ona’s spirits.

“I talked to Mira a lot throughout my fall about practices and everything; she was really, really helpful,” said Lopez-Ona. more

STICKING TOGETHER: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Allison Cowan goes after the ball in a game last spring. Senior star Cowan and her classmates were poised for a big finale before 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hun players have remained connected through Zoom and Instagram as they have worked from home. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Rachel Hickey sensed something special about her Hun School girls’ lacrosse team this spring.

“I don’t know if I have ever been part of a team where I have seen so much growth, not only physically but in terms of culture as well,” said Hun head coach Hickey.

“It was just a really wonderful feeling of how the girls were really enjoying being there. They were really enjoying each other and just working so hard. They were wanting to work hard for each other and we worked to change the culture.”

Hickey credited her senior group with taking a major role in setting that positive tone.

“A huge piece of it as well was this year I had 10 seniors so that was real special,” added Hickey, whose Class of 2020 included Emily Albanese, Sophie Bennett, Emma Caforio, Allison Cowan, Grace Davis, Rose Denommee, Ariel Gold, Samantha Gold, Julia McBryan, and Chessie Ross.

“All of the seniors were friends as well. When you have a group of leaders who are friends that in and of itself goes so far when kids want to play for each other.”

With Hickey in her second year at the helm of the program, the players had developed a greater comfort level from the start of the school year.

“Kids in high school are young and change is challenging for anyone,” said Hickey. more

May 13, 2020

LEAP OF FAITH: Stuart Country Day School track star Heather Kwafo displays her jumping form in a meet this past winter. Senior Kwafo placed first in the long jump (17’10 ½) and third in the triple jump (34’4 ½) at the Mercer County Indoor Championship meet in late January. The Vassar College-bound Kwafo helped Stuart win its third straight state Prep B indoor title on February 1, placing first in both the 55 dash and 200 dash and finishing second in the 55 hurdles.

By Bill Alden

For Heather Kwafo, joining the Stuart Country Day School track team as a freshman in 2016 was a family affair.

With her older sister, Michele, having emerged as a star for Stuart, Kwafo decided to give the sport a try.

“I started in the ninth grade, I hadn’t run in middle school or anything,” said Kwafo.

“I basically did it because my older sister did. She liked it and she was very passionate about it. That kind of let me know that it was something I could be passionate about too.”

While Kwafo admired her sister, who was a junior at the time, she was a bit intimidated by Michele’s success in piling up a number of state Prep B individual titles and school records on the way to heading to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and joining its women’s track program.

“She was really good at it, she was very talented right off the bat even though she put in a lot of hard work,” said Kwafo.  more

KEEPING SPIRITS UP: Hun School baseball head coach Tom Monfiletto enjoys the moment during a 2018 game. Monfiletto was enthusiastic about his team’s prospects this spring as several veterans were ready to step up with Hun coming off a 22-2 campaign in 2019 that saw the program win its fourth straight state Prep A title. In the wake of the 2020 campaign being canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Monfiletto has been keeping in frequent contact with his players, providing them with a practice plan and a workout on a daily basis. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Hun School baseball team, this spring was shaping up to be a season of opportunity.

Coming off a 22-2 campaign in 2019 that saw the program win its fourth straight state Prep A title led by a group of seniors, several veteran returnees who patiently waited their turn were primed to shine this year.

“It was never a sense of how do we figure this out; it was hey we have built the foundation and the sky is the limit,” said Hun head coach Tom Monfiletto.

“It was a different cast of characters, but it is the same show. Each one brings their own personality and strengths. It was a different feel but it was really, really exciting. I knew that we had talent across the board. I knew that we had guys that worked their butts off but we didn’t have the experience that we had last year. The guys that were going to be starting for us, some of them were starters last year and some of them definitely contributed last year, but not many were everyday guys and they were going to have to become everyday guys.”

Those guys showed they were ready by playing well in two scrimmages in Florida in early March as they faced the ELEV8 Baseball Academy (Fla.) and New Jersey prep powerhouse Delbarton.

“We came out and we won that scrimmage against ELEV8 and looked very good on the mound,” said Monfiletto. more

April 29, 2020

GAME OFF: Hun School Director of Athletics Bill Quirk, left, and his wife, Kathy, discuss strategy in their roles as coaches of the Hun softball team during a game in the 2016 season. Last week, Quirk and the school’s administration formally canceled its 2020 spring sports season, concluding that it would not have time to compete in the wake of Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to keep schools closed through May 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As schools across New Jersey were shut down by Gov. Phil Murphy in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hun School was hopeful that it could hold an abbreviated spring sports season starting in May.

But with Governor Murphy’s later decision to extend the school closure to May 15, time has run out on Hun and it formally canceled its spring campaign last week.

“We tried to hold off as long as we could,” said Hun Director of Athletics Bill Quirk of the decision, which comes in the wake of the Peddie School and the Lawrenceville School having previously pulled the plug on their spring seasons.

“Once the governor kept moving that date back with us being scheduled to graduate on May 27, by the time we would come back, there would be only nine days of school.”

For Quirk, who also serves as an assistant coach of the Hun softball team, the cancellation was a tough pill to swallow.

“Spring is one of those seasons where you see the kids working out all the time from September on,” said Quirk. “The teaser was that the majority of them got to go on their spring break trips and then they come home and find out that basically was your season. It is disheartening.” more

April 22, 2020

NEW STAR: Coby Auslander unloads the ball this spring during his freshman season for the Christopher Newport University men’s lacrosse team. Princeton Day School alum Auslander made a superb debut for the Captains, scoring 8 goals and 10 assists in six games as the season was halted due to coronavirus pandemic. Last week, he was named as an Inside Lacrosse 2020 Division III All-Freshman midfielder. (Photo provided courtesy of Christopher Newport Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Coby Auslander didn’t know much about Christopher Newport University when he headed down to Newport News, Va., in 2018 to check out the school and its men’s lacrosse program.

It didn’t take long for Auslander, a former boys’ soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse star at Princeton Day School, to feel at home in the Tidewater area.

“A lot of people up here haven’t heard of Christopher Newport, myself included in the beginning,” said Auslander, a 2019 PDS grad.

“The second I stepped on campus, took the tour, and met with the coach, I knew right away that it was the perfect fit. I looked at my mom and said this school is so beautiful; this campus and the team seems like the culture I want to part of,” he said.

This spring, Auslander emerged as a key part of the team, scoring 8 goals and 10 assists in six games before the season was halted in early March due to coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Auslander was named to the Inside Lacrosse 2020 Division III All-Freshman team. In choosing Auslander, the publication noted that he “ran on the first line midfield, took the wing on face-offs, was a member of the man-up unit, and played a ton of defense for the Captains.”

For the 5’7, 150-pound Auslander, earning such responsibility didn’t come easy. more

April 15, 2020

BY GEORGE: Pat George enjoys the moment after helping to coach Jackson Memorial High baseball team to a Group IV South sectional title in 2018. Earlier this year, George took the helm of the Princeton Day School baseball program, succeeding Brian Dudeck.

By Bill Alden

Pat George is only 31 years old, but he has paid his dues when it comes to coaching baseball.

After playing for the St. John Vianney High School baseball program and then going on to Rutgers where he took a break from the game to focus on his studies, George had stints as an assistant coach at St. John Vianney, Bishop Eustace, and Jackson Memorial. In addition, he helped coach Hamilton Post 31 of the Mercer County American Legion League (MCALL) to the 2017 state legion title game.

In reflecting on those stops, George said he was influenced by two head coaches in particular, Bishop Eustace’s Sam Tropiano and Jackson Memorial’s Frank Malta.

“Eustace is one of the premier powers in the state; coach Tropiano has been there since the late ’80s,” said George. “It was incredible to learn from a guy like that, all of the knowledge he has of the game helped me boost my knowledge and my career. Jackson is a big power in the state and coach Malta has done great things over there. Being able to see those kids in the hallway every day and talk to coach Malta every day, that was best of all the coaching experiences.”

Growing from those experiences, George got the itch to become a head coach himself.

“Last year, I decided that I wanted to run a program and build my own program,” said George, a history and social studies teacher at Jackson Memorial. more

April 8, 2020

BIG TRAIN: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Aidan Trainor brings the puck up the ice in a game this winter. Senior star forward and team captain Trainor tallied 24 goals and 19 assists this season to help PHS go 18-4-2 and win its first Mercer County Tournament title since 2011. Trainor ended up with 212 career points on 102 goals and 110 assists. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Aidan Trainor, playing for the Princeton High School boys’ hockey team has been a family affair.

The senior forward was preceded in the program by his older brothers Anthony ’17 and Robby ’19 and has played the last two seasons with younger brother Colm ’21.

But Trainor’s family feeling on the squad extended beyond his brothers as he enjoyed a special experience during his time with the program.

“I have been lucky enough to play on four great teams in my four years at PHS — we have been really successful,” said Trainor.

The prolific Trainor played a key role in that success, tallying 212 career points on 102 goals and 110 assists.

Coming into his final campaign this winter, Trainor was determined to go out with a bang.

“This is my last year; it is easy to ignore that and not to think about that when you are a freshman, a sophomore, or even a junior,” said Trainor. “This year, I have a bigger sense of urgency to perform and just do my best to help the team succeed.”

PHS first-year head coach Joe Bensky was thrilled to have Trainor on his team. “It is not a secret how good he is, what impresses me is how approachable he is as a 17-year-old young man,” added Bensky. “The kids really like him and look up to him. He doesn’t have a cocky attitude, he is a great young man.”

With Trainor tallying 24 goals and 19 assists over the winter to spark a balanced attack that featured five players with 17 or more goals, PHS put together an impressive regular season record of 15-3-2. more

April 1, 2020

ALL IN: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Ally Antonacci, left, goes after the puck in a game this winter. Sophomore forward Antonacci joined the program this season and helped PDS go 10-11 and advance to the championship game of the Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) Miran Division playoffs. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team, its three match-ups against Rye Country Day School (N.Y.) proved to be a measuring stick of the squad’s progress this winter.

In two regular season meetings, PDS dropped a pair of 2-0 decisions. When the rivals met in the championship game of the Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) Miran Division playoffs in mid-February, the Panthers battled valiantly before falling 2-1.

“I was really proud of the girls and how hard they worked,” said PDS head coach John Ritchie, who guided the Panthers to a 10-11 record in his first season at the helm of the program.

“It definitely shows the improvement from when we played them early in December to the middle of January to the end of the year. We had played Rye twice before and I thought we played them better each time.” more

EMPTY FEELING: The stands were empty around the turf field at Princeton High in late March. The PHS boys’ lacrosse team was slated to host Peddie on April 1 on the field, but that game has been canceled as the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) declared that no interscholastic athletic competition will take place for the time being as schools statewide are closed indefinitely pursuant to an Executive Order issued by Governor Phil Murphy on March 16 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

April Fools’ Day is traditionally a day for harmless practical jokes, pranks, and some laughs.

This April 1 figured to be a very busy, fun day on local playing fields.

The Hun School boys’ lacrosse team was slated to host Everest Academy (Canada), while the Raider baseball team had a home game against the Hill School (Pa.). Over at the Princeton Day School, the girls’ lax team was scheduled to host archival Pennington.

Things would have been hopping around the turf field at Princeton High as the boys’ lacrosse team was welcoming the Peddie School while the track teams were hosting a tri-meet against Hightstown and Notre Dame. more