January 27, 2021

FAST EDDIE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Eddie Evaldi races up the ice in a game last winter. Senior defenseman Evaldi will be depended on to spark Hun at both ends of the ice again this year. The Raiders are slated to start their 2021 season by hosting the Pingry School at the Ice Land Rink on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Hun School boys’ hockey team finally hit the ice last week to start training for an abbreviated 2021 season, the players weren’t just looking to sharpen their skills.

“You come to school on your alternating days, you have a mask on, you stay away from everybody, you go home and there is no social interaction,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally.

“It has taken a toll on that part. I think they are just happy to be in a place where they are the hockey program, whether they are playing in a league or not.”

With Hun playing a limited schedule with no Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) action, McNally is ruing the lack of postseason play.

“We only graduated a handful of kids; it comes and goes in waves when you are good and when you are average,” said McNally, who guided the Raiders to a 9-14-2 record last year, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament final and the MAHL semis. more

APPLYING PRESSURE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Dan Vessey, right, puts on the defensive pressure in a game last winter. Guard Vessey emerged as a shooting star last year for Hun and is primed for a big junior season. The Raiders are slated to start their 2021 season this week by hosting Christian Brothers Academy on January 26 and Princeton Day School on January 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Starting in early December, the sound of squeaking sneakers, bouncing basketballs, and whistles could be heard emanating from the Hun School tennis courts on weekday afternoons.

With indoor sports banned in New Jersey for the last four weeks of December due to COVID-19 concerns, the Hun boys’ basketball team took its preseason training outside.

While braving the elements was challenging, Raider head coach Jon Stone credited his players with pushing through the situation.

“For all of us coaches and for all of these sports this year, we are starting with a lot of firsts,” said Stone.

“That was certainly a first, practicing outside, socially distant with masks on the tennis courts. I can’t say I have done that before. We made the best out of a tough situation; we tried to get done what we could get done.”

Getting back into the gym on January 16 proved to be a joyful moment for the Raiders. more

A-GAME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Aleah James heads to the hoop in action last season. Senior guard James figures to be a key performer this winter as Stuart looks to build on a superb 2019-20 season that saw it win its third straight state Prep B title and advance to the Mercer County Tournament final for the first time ever. Last Friday, James scored 12 points as Stuart topped Life Center Academy 57-44 in its 2021 season opener. In upcoming action, Stuart hosts Sinai Christian Academy on January 27, plays at Life Center on January 29, hosts Paul VI on January 30, plays at Trenton Catholic on February 1, and hosts Princeton Day School on February 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Last winter, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team produced an historic campaign, winning its third straight state Prep B title and advancing to the Mercer County Tournament final for the first time ever.

Having posting a 21-7 record and emerging as one of the top teams in the state despite having an upper school enrollment of approximately 160 students, tiny Stuart won’t be able to sneak up on anybody this season.

“The girls are on alert that we have a target on our back so the way to counteract that is to outwork them and to treat it the right way,” said Stuart head coach Justin Leith.

“That is part of the learning curve, it is not like we are an established New Jersey powerhouse for the last 15-20 years where there is a knowing there. We are in the infancy of being established so we have to come out every single game like it is the championship because that is how people are going to be playing us. That is a good thing, that is how you get better.”

Stuart features a very good point guard in senior Nia Melvin. “Nia has been our MVP the last three years and, of course, she looks great,” said Leith of Melvin who tallied 12 points and had five rebounds to help Stuart defeat Life Center Academy 57-44 last Friday in its 2021 season opener. more

January 20, 2021

GAINING CONTROL: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Catie Samaan controls the puck in a game last winter. Sophomore standout Samaan figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this season. PHS opens its 2021 campaign by playing at Princeton Day School on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Last winter, the Princeton High girls’ hockey team relied on senior star Victoria Zammit to control the tempo at both ends of the ice.

“Victoria was great because she could do everything herself to keep it in our other zone and give the defense a break,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog of Zammit who tallied 45 points on 34 goals and 11 assists to help the Tigers go 4-14.

“She could also play defense and could be helpful there as long as she had the green light to rush the puck when she had the opportunity.”

With Zammit having graduated, Herzog is looking for sophomore Catie Samaan and junior Grace Rebak to step up this winter.

“Catie and Grace are going to have to be iron women and log a ton of time and be situational specific forwards to be on the power play and things like that,” said Herzog, whose team opens its 2021 campaign by playing at Princeton Day School on January 21.

“In the drills that we have been doing, I have Catie and Grace do mostly defense. They are the two strongest players on the team, they take initiative. They are going to have to work a lot of give and go together. They have to make some opportunities happen, especially offensively. Samaan has a strong head for hockey and Rebak is calm on the ice.” more

HAIL STORM: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Hailey Wexler heads to goal in a game last season. Senior forward Wexler will be depended on to help trigger the PDS offense this winter. The Panthers open their 2021 campaign by hosting Princeton High on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team didn’t hit the ice until early January due to delays stemming from COVID-19 concerns, John Ritchie believes that the late start may have made his players even more enthusiastic about the upcoming season.

“They are really excited, building off some of the enthusiasm from last year,” said PDS head coach Ritchie, who guided the Panthers to a 10-11 record last winter in his debut campaign at the helm of the program.

“We almost doubled the number of girls that are playing this year, which is awesome. Some are coming out for the first time. Some have played when they were younger and stopped to focus on other sports and they are coming back to it. For others, hockey is their primary sport. It is a really good mix. We had two scrimmages this week that went pretty well, so far, so good.” more

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Eugene Burroughs directs his players during a summer pro league game. Boasting a resume that includes coaching at the Division I level, the NBA, and the G-League, Burroughs has taken the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball program. (Photo provided courtesy of Eugene Burroughs)

By Bill Alden

Eugene Burroughs has undergone quite a basketball odyssey since the 1980s.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Burroughs starred at Episcopal High (Pa.) and then went south to play college ball at the University of Richmond. During his freshman season in 1991, point guard Burroughs sank the game-clinching free throws as the Spiders upset Syracuse 73-69 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, becoming the first 15th-seeded team to defeat a No. 2 seed in tourney history.

Upon graduating in 1994, Burroughs worked as a salesman for Coca-Cola before he was pulled back into the game to become an assistant coach for the American University men’s hoops program.

From there, he had associate coaching stints at Marist, Hofstra, Navy, Penn State, and a second stop at Marist.

The NBA came calling in 2014 as Burroughs became the shooting coach for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers. He later coached G-League teams in Delaware and California from 2016-20.

Now, the latest stop on Burroughs’ hoops journey is coming to Princeton Day School, where he has taken the helm of its boys’ basketball program, succeeding Doug Davis.  more

January 13, 2021

CALL TO ACTION: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Austin Micale looks to move the puck in a game last winter. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Micale is primed for a big final season. PHS, which is welcoming a new head coach in Dave Hansen, starts its 2021 campaign on January 18 by playing Paul VI at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While new Princeton High boys’ hockey head coach Dave Hansen has only had a week of on-ice practice with his squad after weeks of dry-land training, he believes things are already coming together.

“I am really happy with the boys right now, they work hard,” said Hansen, the longtime head coach at Madison High and successor to Joe Bensky, who guided the Tigers to an 18-4-2 record and the Mercer County Tournament title last winter.

“In the first one or two practices, I wanted to have some fun with them. I am just trying to have a good time with them and get to know them and they are trying to do the same thing with me. We are off to a good start.”

In Hansen’s view, he and his new players are quickly getting on the same page. 

“We are doing our forechecks, we are doing our d-zones, we are doing our power plays and penalty kills,” said Hansen.

“I try to do a lot of skills drills the first 20-25 minutes and then focus on systems for the last 45 minutes to an hour. We got on the ice last week and we started doing a few drills. When we started repeating them, they knew where to go right away. They know what they need to do and they are doing that at a high caliber.” more

By Bill Alden

Dave Hansen has been around the game of hockey since he was a preschooler in Morris County.

“I started playing hockey when I was 4 or 5 years old, it was a big sport in Chatham,” said Hansen.

“My cousins played and I was intrigued by it. My dad took me to a public session at a rink and I loved it. I had a chair in front of me, I would fall and he would pick me up to help me learn how to skate.”

Picking up things quickly on the ice, Hansen played club hockey for the Colonials, Rockets, and Devils programs and then went on to star for Chatham High. After graduating from Chatham, Hansen played at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire.

Returning to New Jersey, Hansen got into coaching, starting as an assistant at Montclair High in 1995 and then becoming a head coach at Mt. Olive High and later Madison High.

In his 17-season tenure at Madison from 2004-20, Hansen led the program to unprecedented success, earning over 200 wins.

“I started the program with nine players; I had a lot of fun with it, they definitely listened to me and the systems I wanted to install,” said Hansen, 48, who runs a landscaping business when he is not on the ice. more

LOW RIDER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Michael Sullo goes after the puck in a game last winter. After emerging as a star for PDS last winter, junior forward Sullo figures to be a go-to scorer for the Panthers this season. PDS opens its 2021 campaign when it plays at Don Bosco on January 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While there is normally a buzz in the air when the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team hits the ice to start preseason training, Scott Bertoli saw a heightened intensity when his players arrived at McGraw Rink last week to prepare for the 2021 campaign.

“It was good to be on the ice,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, who guided the Panthers to a 7-11-1 record last winter in a season highlighted by wins over Lawrenceville, Delbarton, and Hun.

“They were excited to be out there. That was even furthered by the fact that for many of them it was the first time being on our ice or being in the new athletic center so there was a lot of excitement surrounding the start of the season.”

The PDS players are excited to be furthering the program’s proud tradition.

“I know that a lot of these kids are playing club hockey outside of here but there is definitely something different to playing for your high school, especially at a school like this,” added Bertoli. more

January 6, 2021

CAMPING OUT: Princeton High cross country head coach Jim Smirk gives the thumbs up from one of the campsites that he stayed at last fall, isolated from his family to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for his wife, Rebecca, who had open heart and lung surgery in 2012 for complications caused by chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. Despite his nomadic existence during that period, Smirk was still able to guide his PHS runners to a superb 2020 campaign. (Photo provided by Jim Smirk)

By Justin Feil

Although Jim Smirk was forced to make adaptations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic like all coaches, his adjustments were a bit more drastic than most.

Princeton High cross country head coach Smirk guided his boys’ and girls’ teams to growth and success while making sacrifices behind the scenes in his personal life.

Over the final month of the season, instead of driving home to his Yardley, Pa., home after practices or meets, the Tigers head coach made his home camping either 20 miles up the Delaware River in Tohickon Valley Park, or across Route 1 in Mercer County Park.

“I was cutting a lot of wood to stay warm and cooking over a camp stove and grading on my laptop in my hammock,” said Smirk, who also teaches environmental science at PHS. “It was definitely a unique experience.”

Smirk isolated from his family to reduce the risk of COVID for his wife, Rebecca, who had open heart and lung surgery in 2012 for complications caused by chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, a blood clotting issue that damages the lungs. The couple also has a ninth-grade daughter, Emma.  more

FORCE OF NATURE: Wilberforce School cross country runner Jeremy Sallade displays his form as he competed in the NJSIAA (New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association) Non-Public South Sectional to end the 2020 campaign. Sophomore Sallade placed fourth individually in the race, clocking a time of 16:55.00 over the 5,000-meter course at Oak Ridge Park in Clark. Sallade’s performance helped Wilberforce take second in the team standings at the meet as it scored 54 points with St. Rose taking the title with 49. (Photo provided by Lois Szeliga)

By Bill Alden

Jeremy Sallade is a serious soccer player but he chose to join the cross country team this fall in his sophomore year at The Wilberforce School due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

“It is such a weird time with COVID, I didn’t know what it would look like,” said Sallade, who plays club soccer for Princeton FC.

“I decided cross country is more of a distant sport. I had been running a little so why not give it a try.”

In taking up cross country, Sallade was aided by his father, Chris Sallade, a track standout at Princeton University in the early 1990s.

“He has given me a lot of encouragement,” said Sallade of his father.

“We have run together a good bit and he will give me some tips on races, how to run, and how to try to give it your all and strategize. He has taught me a good bit.”

As he got into running this fall for Wilberforce, a school which moved to its current site on Mapleton Road in Princeton at the former Saint Joseph’s Seminary, Sallade had to make adjustments from soccer. more

FAST COMPANY: Members of The Wilberforce School cross country team enjoy the moment after they competed in the NJSIAA (New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association) Non-Public South Sectional at Oak Ridge Park in Clark in mid-November to end the 2020 season. Pictured, from left, are Colin Mejias, Josh Lai, Caleb Brox, Jeremy Sallade, Andrew Madigan, Laura Prothero, Sophia Park, Annie Whitman, Joel Seidle, David Dorini, Lydia Sallade, head coach Lois Szeliga, and Brooke Mersereau. The boys’ team placed second at the meet while the girls’ squad, who had only two members in 2017, placed fourth. (Photo provided by Lois Szeliga)

By Bill Alden

Lois Szeliga took the helm of The Wilberforce School cross country program in 2017 as a stopgap.

With previous coach Rebeka Stowe, an aspiring Olympic steeplechaser and pro runner with the NJNY Track Club, stepping down in August that year to pursue other opportunities, Szeliga, a stay-at-home mother of six children, didn’t seem like a likely replacement.

But with a background in running that included starring at Watchung Hills High and then going on to walk on at Rutgers University where she ended up as a captain of the cross country team, the Wilberforce community reached out to Szeliga to step in and lead the program.

“My kids go to Wilberforce and someone told them I had run and just threw out my name; I think it was about a week or two before the season,” said Szeliga.

“I wasn’t planning on it. My high school running days were so important to me and I would be heartbroken if these kids didn’t have a season. They were talking about what do we do, could the captains lead, so I said yes and it has been so rewarding.” more

December 30, 2020

MOMENT OF TRIUMPH: Princeton University wrestler Travis Stefanik celebrates after he topped Cornell’s Jonathan Loew 10-4 at 184 pounds to clinch victory in a 19-13 triumph by Princeton over the Big Red on February 9 at Jadwin Gym. The victory snapped Princeton’s 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and clinched the Tiger program’s first Ivy League title since 1986. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As 2020 headed into March, local sports teams were enjoying a memorable winter campaign.

Over at Princeton University, the wrestling team produced an historic breakthrough, edging Cornell 19-13 to snap a 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and earn the program’s first Ivy League title since 1986. The Tigers women’s hockey team made some history of its own, winning the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey championship and posting a 26-6-1 record. At Jadwin Gym, Carla Berube made a stunning debut as the head coach of the Tiger women’s basketball program, guiding Princeton to a 26-1 overall record and a 14-0 Ivy campaign with the squad rising to No. 17 in national polls.

On the high school scene, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team produced a comeback for the ages in the Mercer County Tournament final. Trailing six-time defending champion Hun 5-0 in the second period, PHS rallied to pull out a dramatic 7-5 win and earn the program’s first county crown since 2011. The Stuart Country Day School hoops team emerged as one of the best squads in New Jersey, winning its third straight state Prep B title and advancing to the MCT final for the first time in program history on the way to posting a 21-7 record. Featuring a gritty group of battle-tested veterans, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team went on the road and defeated Doane Academy 64-50 in the state Prep B final.

But then storm clouds rolled in on the horizon as the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading worldwide, putting the health of millions in jeopardy. The Ivy League sensed the danger before others, canceling its men’s and women’s basketball postseason tournaments on March 10. A day later, after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz of the NBA tested positive for the coronavirus, the sports world came to a halt across the globe. Within days, the NCAA canceled the winter and spring seasons with students across the country being sent home to shelter in place. The pro hockey and basketball leagues put their seasons on hold while Major League Baseball postponed opening day indefinitely. The New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) canceled the rest of the winter season right away and later pulled the plug on spring sports as well.

Stuck at home, college and high school athletes kept in contact with their teammates and coaches on their computers via the Zoom calls that became a way of life. Players devised creative ways of working out and maintaining team bonds as they waited to get back into action.

With masking up, social distancing, and frequent hand washing becoming daily staples, sports gingerly started to stick its toe back in the water observing those safety protocols. In New Jersey, a “Last Dance” high school baseball tournament was held in July to give the players, particularly graduating seniors, a final taste of diamond action.

On the pro level, leagues gradually returned to action with the NBA, NHL, and WNBA operating in so-called “bubbles” with athletes located at one site, getting frequently tested for COVID-19 and living under strict protocols. Big league baseball played a sharply limited schedule which went from late July to October with 60 games as opposed to the usual 162. Once the fall rolled around, the NFL and major college football did resume action on the gridiron. But with the pandemic still raging, there were a number of pauses, postponements, and cancellations, particularly at the college level.

Once again, the Ivy League, ever mindful of athletes’ safety, canceled its fall competition. In November, the league pulled the plug on its winter sports as well. more

December 23, 2020

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Hun School boys’ cross country runner Harry Carter heads to the finish line at the 2019 Mercer County championship meet. While there was no championship competition this fall due to COVID-19 concerns, junior Carter still enjoyed a big season, winning the Boys’ Varsity White race at the XC 7-on-7 Invitational at Thompson Park in late October. He also recorded a personal-best 16:23 for fourth place in the Central Jersey XC Shootout. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Despite operating in a less than ideal setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hun School cross country program was able to meet its expectations this fall.

While the pandemic cut into the program’s expected roster numbers increase and took away a preseason camp that would have served as a launching point, the Raiders found plenty to celebrate by the end of their shortened 2020 season.

“We had a core of about 15 boys and three girls that worked incredibly hard and incredibly consistently day in and day out,” said Hun second-year head coach Kurt Wayton.

 more

ANSWERING THE BELL: Princeton High boys’ soccer goalie Jared Bell corrals the ball against Hunterdon Central in the Central West B Group 4 sectional final. Senior standout Bell made eight saves in the game in a losing cause as PHS fell 1-0. Bell’s brilliance in goal played a key role in the Tigers going 9-3-1 and getting to the final. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jared Bell was primed to make some noise this fall for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

Coming off a superb campaign in 2019, senior goalie Bell was determined to speak up on the field in his final high school season.

“From my sophomore year to now, I have definitely developed as a communicator on this team,” said Bell, who posted 12 shutouts as a junior.

“It is really necessary for our back four and myself to give instructions to the middle third and the front third.”

With Bell calling the shots and producing some brilliant play in net, the PHS defensive unit didn’t waste any time this fall showing how stingy it was going to be, posting shutouts in the first two games with a 4-0 win over Hamilton West and a 3-0 triumph against Steinert. After a loss and a tie, the Tigers got back on track, winning five straight games with clean sheets in four of those wins.

In reflecting on his progress, Bell acknowledged that it took a while for him to get into a rhythm this fall.

“It is gradual, it is a process,” said Bell. “With COVID, it was a little tough to find training and games to play. I try to play as much as I can.”

Getting to play with a back four of fellow seniors James Novak, Ethan Parker, Dylan Parker, and Simon Sheppard, helped Bell feel a comfort level on the pitch. more

December 16, 2020

SHINING KNIGHT: Sean Gleeson fields questions at the Princeton University football media day in 2018 in his role as the offensive coordinator for the Tigers. Gleeson, who went on to serve as the offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State in 2019, has returned to New Jersey this fall to run the offense for the Rutgers University football team. With Gleeson employing his fast-paced attack, Rutgers is enjoying a revival. Coming off a 2019 season that saw the Scarlet Knights to 2-10 overall and 0-9 in Big Ten play, Rutgers is turning heads this fall with its potent offense. Playing only Big 10 games in 2020, the Scarlet Knights are 3-5 and averaging 27.4 points a game. Gleeson, for his part, has been nominated for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When Bob Surace sought to become the head coach of the Princeton University football team a decade ago, he aspired to do more than just get the Tigers back on the winning track.

Surace, a 1990 Princeton alum and former star offensive lineman in his college days, looked to follow the example of legendary Tiger men’s basketball coach Pete Carril.

“I admire Pete Carril as much as anybody in my time at Princeton as a student, as an alum, as a coach,” said Surace, who took over the Tiger program starting with the 2010 season.

“You look at Pete Carril’s tree and how many branches it has as other people have had success and done well. When you think of Pete Carril you think of the sweater and the cigar but you also think of the Princeton offense. I remember in my interview I was asked about scheme and I talked about offense. I wanted to do something with a creative staff that was going to be known as the Princeton offense, doing it at a high speed with a beautiful system and all of those things.”

Installing an innovative no-huddle, hurry-up offense, Surace has guided the Princeton program to Ivy League titles in 2013, 2016, and 2018, setting a slew of program and league offensive records in the process, including an Ivy best of 470 points in going 10-0 in 2018. more

UP HER ALLEY: Princeton Day School field hockey player Ally Antonacci, left, goes after the ball in a game this fall. Junior star Antonacci helped spark the PDS offense as the Panthers ended the season on a four-game winning streak to post a final record of 5-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Princeton Day School field hockey team lost four of its first five games this fall, its players could have gotten discouraged.

Instead, PDS caught fire and got on a roll, reeling off four straight victories to end the season with a winning record of 5-4.

In assessing her squad’s late surge, Panther head coach Heather Farlow saw it as a product of some rigorous self-assessment on the part of her players.

“Our season was so condensed, we started one week and then we would get better the next week,” said Farlow.

“By playing competitive hockey against another team and not just scrimmaging among ourselves, it gave them the opportunity to see what they did well and what we need to work on. It gave them the perspective that they needed even though the coaches had said some things. It was learn by doing. If you don’t get the result that you expect, then you can make the change and improve. You are creating opportunities for yourself.” more

KEEPING UP WITH JONES: Hun School field hockey player Ashley Jones controls the ball in a game this fall. Junior standout Jones stepped up on offense this fall as Hun went 1-6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was a classic 2020 scenario for Tracey Arndt and her Hun School field hockey team.

With the team’s season finale at Moorestown Friends slated for November 6, Hun head coach Arndt got a phone call the day before the game advising her that it was being canceled.

Displaying the flexibility that has become habit this year, Arndt reached out to find another opponent for the game and found a partner in the Princeton Day School squad.

“I have a ton of respect for Heather (PDS head coach Heather Farlow), her team, and her program so I threw an SOS out there and asked if there is any chance if you would be willing to host us,” said Arndt. “They were so gracious in letting us come over.”

With the teams having split their previous two meetings, the rubber match proved to be a thriller as PDS prevailed 2-1 in overtime. more

December 9, 2020

By Bill Alden

For the three seniors on the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team, Hayden Masia, Hannah Van Dusen, and Gabrielle Namouni, this fall could have been a lost season.

With the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament getting canceled due to COVID-19 issues, it would have been understandable if the trio lost some motivation with no titles to shoot for.

Instead, they helped make the 2020 season unforgettable, setting the tone as the Panthers went 11-0.   

“For Hayden, Hannah, and Gabby as seniors, it is very much an exclamation point at the end of their playing careers,” said PDS head coach Chris Rosensteel of his veteran performers, who all played doubles with Masia and Van Dusen pairing up at first doubles and Namouni playing with junior Eshaa Doshi at second doubles.

“I don’t know if they will pursue college tennis at some level. As far as a team sport, that was huge for them. They are the reason the team was close-knit. They developed a really good team atmosphere where everybody was supporting each other. I know we did well in matches, but we also did really well in practice. I felt like every practice was productive and a big part of that was those girls setting the standard in practices. As a result, we had productive practices and then the girls felt like they could go into the matches with a little bit more confidence and more relaxed.” more

IN TOUCH: Hun School boys’ soccer player Levin Sanchez Willems, left, controls the ball in a game this fall despite the efforts of two Princeton Day School defenders. Senior Sanchez Willems helped the Raiders go 1-5 this fall in a season limited by COVID-19 issues. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

The Hun School boys’ soccer team would have liked a few more games to develop its new possession-oriented style and find the best lineup combinations.

The Raiders made significant changes for this season but didn’t have a lot of games to test how they would all work. COVID-19 pandemic concerns shortened preseason camp to one week in August, and two weeks after tryouts in mid-September they were playing their first game to start October.

“Everything went really quickly,” said Hun head coach Pat Quirk, whose team posted a 1-5 record this fall.

“It was tough to sort everything out. I always thought that we’d be playing, but we knew in the back of our heads this could just be taken away from us. We tried to treat every day like we were glad to be out here. We were the only MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) school that had any kind of games. We knew any game we got would be a plus. We tried to play every game like it would be our last and the next day it could end.” more

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2, 2020

HOLY MOSES: Princeton High running back/linebacker Moses Santizo looks for an opening in recent action. Senior co-captain Santizo provided leadership and production as PHS went 1-5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High football team lost 30-6 at Haddon Township in its season finale on November 21, Charlie Gallagher saw reasons to be encouraged.

“The effort was like it has been in every other game, it was outstanding,” said PHS head coach Gallagher, whose team’s lone score in the finale came on a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jaxon Petrone to classmate Jaiden Johnson as the Tigers finished the fall with a 1-5 record.

“We played a few new guys because we had some guys banged up. We were able to get a good look at some of our younger guys and they just did an outstanding job. These are good program guys who have been at practice every single day on time. When you do that, you deserve a hand in the pot, so to speak. This was a great opportunity.”

Junior running back Lahehmoo Pwee took advantage of his opportunity to play against Haddon, rushing for 55 yards.

“Lahehmoo played halfback for us and did an outstanding job,” said Gallagher.

“When he turned in his equipment, I told him how proud I was of him. We were a little nervous about Lehehmoo, he played the first game and things didn’t go well. He thinks he could have played a better game and we all do. He has grown so much over the past several weeks. In the back of my mind on the bus ride down, it is like this is his audition. Do I leave this game saying do we need a tailback or did Lehehmoo step up and he surely did. He did an outstanding job.”

In Gallagher’s view, the team grew as it persevered through the ups and downs of the season. more

BRINGING HER A-GAME: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Adriana Salzano controls the ball in a game this fall. Freshman Salzano made an immediate impact in her debut campaign for PDS, tallying nine goals and six assists. The Panthers ended the season in a 10-game winning streak, posting a final record of 10-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team didn’t get to play for any titles this fall with the state Prep B and Mercer County tournaments canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, the squad displayed championship form.

After dropping its season opener 3-2 to Monroe on October 1, PDS reeled off 10 straight victories to post a final record of 10-1.

The highlight of that winning streak came on November 7 when the Panthers played at defending state Group 4 champion and powerhouse Hunterdon Central on short notice and pulled  out a thrilling 2-1 triumph.

With a matchup against local rival Pennington having been canceled due to COVID protocols, PDS was looking for a challenge.

“We wanted to find a top-20 team, we found Bridgewater-Raritan, I think they were No. 19 at the time so we were all set to play Bridgewater on Saturday,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta.

“Then we get a call Thursday night saying that they are going under quarantine for a second time. On Friday morning, Hunterdon Central reaches out and says how about a game. They gave me 24 hours’ notice and, by the way, it is at their place.”

With no time to waste, Trombetta put together a game plan overnight. more

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