October 14, 2020

SIX SHOOTER: Princeton High field hockey player Olivia Weir, right, heads upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, junior star forward Weir tallied six goals to help PHS defeat Robbinsville 7-1. The Tigers, who improved to 3-0 with the win, play at Hopewell Valley on October 15 before hosting Allentown on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Olivia Weir sharpened her field hockey skills by competing against boys in her native South Africa.

“I started playing when I was 10 in South Africa and I moved here two and half years ago,” said Weir, a junior forward on the Princeton High field hockey team.

“In South Africa, boys can play which is really different. The game is a little bit slower here because in South Africa we play on astroturf, so that is definitely a change.”

Last Thursday, Weir came out at full speed against Robbinsville, tallying six goals to help PHS post a 7-1 win over the Ravens and improve to 3-0.

In reflecting on her outburst, Weir credited her teammates with setting her up.

“We are doing an amazing job finding each other in the circle,” said Weir, reflecting on her outburst which PHS head coach Heather Serverson believes is a single-game school record.

“We just know where everyone is. I was just in the right spot.”

Even Weir was taken aback by the fact that she might have achieved a school record. more

BELLWETHER: Princeton High boys’ soccer goalie Jared Bell leaps to make a stop against Steinert last Wednesday. Senior star Bell made three saves in the contest to help PHS defeat the Spartans 3-0. The Tigers, who dropped to 2-1 with a 3-2 loss to Robbinsville last Saturday, play at Notre Dame on October 14 and at Hopewell Valley on October 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jared Bell found himself under fire as the Princeton High boys’ soccer team hosted Steinert last Wednesday.

The PHS senior goalie held the fort as the Spartans generated a number of scoring opportunities and had the Tiger defense on its heels for much of the first half.

But utilizing the bonds he has developed with his defense, Bell helped PHS thwart Steinert and kept the Spartans scoreless as the Tigers clung to a 1-0 lead at halftime on a goal by senior star Nick Petruso.

“We really managed to pull through with communication,” said Bell.

“Almost every kid on our defense I think of as a leader. They are always talking, they are setting a good example.”

In the second half, PHS played some very good soccer, tacking on goals by Richard Wegmann and Andrew DeLuca in pulling away to a 3-0 triumph even as it lost Petruso to a leg injury just after halftime.

“After Nick went out, then we really know we had to step up and that mentality really set in,” said Bell, who ended up with three saves in the victory.

As a battle-tested senior, Bell has stepped up to make his voice heard on the field.

“From my sophomore year to now, I have definitely developed as a communicator on this team,” said Bell, who posted 12 shutouts in 2019 during his junior campaign. more

HEADY PLAY: Hun School girls’ soccer player Chloe Hill heads the ball in a game last season. Senior defender Hill is helping to spearhead the Hun back line this fall. The Raiders, 0-2, are next in action when they host Pennington on October 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Hun School girls’ soccer team has a 2020 schedule that is limited to five games due to COVID-19 concerns, Jenn Barrett is seeing plenty of intensity from her players.

“The girls like to have the goal and they like to have something to work towards; we are definitely practicing as though we have a full season,” said Hun head coach Barrett, who guided the Raiders to a 4-11 record last fall in her debut season at the helm of the program.

“We really have the mindset that our goal is to achieve competitive greatness. We are trying to shift the culture to almost look forward to the really hard games because that is what is going to make you better. True athletes want to play the best teams.”

Hun boasts some good athletes at forward in junior Olivia D’Aulerio and sophomore Oluwatooni Olaleye.

“We are really young this year, we have a lot of good, young talent which is amazing,” said Barrett, whose team fell 6-1 to Princeton Day School last Saturday to move to 0-2 and is next in action when it hosts Pennington on October 24. more

IMPOSING HIS WILL: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Will Sedgley controls the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior defender/midfielder Sedgley tallied a goal to help PDS defeat Hun School 2-1 in overtime. The Panthers, now 1-2-1, are slated to host Pennington on October 17 and then play at Moorestown Friends on October 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Will Sedgley skinned both of his knees but that didn’t stop him from stepping up as the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team hosted the Hun School last Friday.

With the local rivals knotted in a scoreless tie in the second half, Sedgley battled to tally the first goal of the contest, blasting a shot off of Hun goalie Alex Donahue and then slotting the rebound into the back of the net with 19:43 remaining in regulation.

“My goal came from pressing the guy who had the ball; I had the run to the line and I tried to pull it back but no one was there,” said Sedgley.

“I was a little upset about that, I used it to drive me on. I should have scored on the first shot but I got the rebound. It was the first goal for me in a while. I have to score more. I was playing center back in the first half. I wanted to get more attacking so I moved to the midfield.”

The game went into overtime as Hun got a goal by Hector Suriel with 2:05 remaining in the half to force the extra session. PDS, though, pulled out the win as senior defender Aidan McChesney scored on a header with 3:55 left in the first overtime to give the Panthers a 2-1 victory.

Heading into overtime, Sedgley and his teammates were determined to come through. more

October 7, 2020

SCORING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Jules Romano advances the ball last Thursday as PDS hosted Monroe High in its season opener. Senior midfielder Romano scored a goal as the Panthers fell 3-2 to Monroe. PDS, which defeated Hillsborough 2-0 last Saturday as Romano and classmate Kelly Beal both scored, plays at the Hun School on October 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jules Romano managed a smile despite the fact that her Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team had just lost 3-2 to visiting Monroe last Thursday in its season opener.

“I think it was just good for the team to get out there,” said PDS senior midfielder Romano, reflecting on getting the 2020 campaign underway in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had to go a five-week preseason, usually it is only about two-three weeks so it was just keeping our composure and making sure that we stay focused. It was good for the seniors to get out there in our first home game. It didn’t really matter about the result. Honestly, we were just glad to be out there again.”

PDS displayed composure, falling behind 1-0 early in the first half and then battling back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits in the second half before ultimately succumbing. more

ACTION JAXON: Princeton High quarterback Jaxon Petrone gets ready for a hand off last Friday night as PHS played at Robbinsville in the season opener for both teams. Making his debut as starting QB, Petrone threw a fourth quarter touchdown pass to provide a highlight as the Tigers fell 42-6. PHS hosts Bishop Eustace on October 10 in its home opener. (Photo by Dennis Symons)

By Bill Alden

Jaxon Petrone had reason to be particularly grateful to take the field for the Princeton High football team as it played at Robbinsville last Friday evening in the season opener for both teams.

Having been sidelined all last fall due to injury and with COVID-19 putting the 2020 season in doubt for months, junior quarterback Petrone was thrilled to finally be leading the PHS offense.

“It is a great feeling to be out there, I didn’t know if we were going to be out there or not with the COVID,” said Petrone.

“Coach [Charlie Gallagher] said relish the moment, value it, and just be happy to be out there.”

Facing a tough Robbinsville team coming off a 9-1 season, Petrone and his teammates experienced some tough moments as the Ravens jumped out to a 35-0 lead at halftime on the way to a 42-6 win. more

STICK FIGHT: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Lily Harlan, left, battles Hun School’s Kayla Hampton for the ball in action last Saturday. Sophomore forward Harlan tallied a goal and an assist to help Stuart prevail 3-0 in the season opener for both teams. On Monday, Harlan chipped in a goal and an assist as Stuart tied Pennington 2-2. The Tartans are slated to play at Bordentown on October 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the start of the 2020 season was delayed due to concerns over COVID-19, Lily Harlan didn’t waste any time making an impact in her sophomore season for the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team.

With Stuart hosting Hun School last Saturday in the season opener for both teams, star forward Harlan deftly flicked a pass to Morgan John on the post which she banged into the cage to give the Tartans a 1-0 lead just 2:41 into the contest.

For Harlan, getting the assist wasn’t nearly as exciting as just getting out on the field for a game.

“It means so much because honestly I didn’t even think we would get to play again,” said Harlan.

“I thought we would just maybe have practice so it is great getting to play with my team. Everyone is so nice, our coaches are amazing. All of my teammates cheer each other on. It is one of the most encouraging teams you could meet.”

Looking to build on that early tally, Stuart dominated possession over the rest of the first half but had nothing to show for it as the score remained 1-0 at halftime. more

OPEN FIELD RUNNING: Hun School football player Ben Romano races to the end zone last Saturday as Hun defeated the Kiski School (Pa.) 68-0 in its season opener. Junior captain Romano scored two touchdowns in the win, one as a receiver and one after lining up at quarterback. The Raiders are slated to host Paramus Catholic on October 10. (Photo provided courtesy of The Hun School of Princeton)

By Justin Feil

Ben Romano has added leadership this year to the versatility that he brought last year for the Hun School football team.

The junior captain scored two touchdowns – one as a receiver and one after lining up at quarterback – as the Raiders rolled to a 68-0 win over Kiski in their season opener Saturday at Hun.

“I think we played pretty well,” said Romano, who also plays in the Hun defensive backfield.

“We were excited to get out for our first game. We had quarantine and the build-up for that, and our season started later than most private schools because of the rules. We have a lot of new faces and we were excited to get out there. We just tried to get a win and that happened.”

Hun jumped out to a 40-0 lead in the first quarter to start the season with a bang. The Raiders looked fully reloaded in their first game after graduating a significant senior class a year ago. Hun didn’t get a look at this year’s group until preseason began September 14, and it didn’t have a scrimmage to get a sense of how the team would play.

“We knew we had some good players, but we had kids that hadn’t played together,” said Hun head coach Todd Smith.

“It was a lot of new faces whereas last year’s team was a lot of returners and this year’s team is just a lot of new faces that hadn’t played together. We weren’t sure how they were going to gel. Sometimes you need that scrimmage to help get things going. Since we didn’t have that, we were looking forward to seeing how things would come out.”

The offense came out quickly while the defense was dominant right from the outset. The defense’s stinginess set up the offense for multiple scoring opportunities. more

September 30, 2020

READY TO POUNCE: Princeton High football player Dylan Angelucci patrols the field in a 2019 game. Senior Angelucci should be seeing action at safety and wide receiver this fall for PHS. The Tigers open their 2020 campaign by playing at Robbinsville on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton High football team couldn’t do any contact drills during its first week of practice due to COVID-19 restrictions, it still made good progress.

“We went an entire week essentially without any equipment, the kids were so excited to be out there and the coaches were excited that I don’t think we paid it too much mind,” said PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher.

“We had a lot of learning to do. I am harking back on the fact that football is definitely an intricate, complicated game. There are a lot of moving parts and there is a lot of teaching that needs to take place. We didn’t get to do any of that teaching in the summer time. That week was actually pretty invaluable.”

Despite COVID-19 concerns and coming off a 0-8 season, PHS boasts good numbers this year with a roster of more than 40 players. more

GRACEFUL MOVE: Princeton High field hockey player Grace Rebak controls the ball in a game last fall. Junior defender/midfielder and co-captain Rebak will help key the PHS defense. The Tigers open their 2020 season by playing at Hamilton West on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Heather Serverson is seeing a special spirit in the way her Princeton High field hockey team has dealt with practicing through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The girls have done a great job with it,” said PHS head coach Serverson, who guided the Tigers to a 14-4-1 record in 2019 as they advanced to the semifinals of both the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional.

“They keep coming earlier and earlier to practice because they are so excited to get there. They are saying it is the highlight of my day, I need to get outside. They just love it. I have never seen them so happy, nobody is complaining.”

Serverson is happy to have senior co-captain Shoshi Henderson leading the team’s forward line. more

ABOVE THE REST: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Petruso, right, soars high to head the ball in a game last fall. Senior Petruso, who led the Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) in goals last year with 21, will be the go-to finisher for the Tigers again this fall. PHS is slated to start its 2020 campaign when it plays at Hamilton West on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Going with a young lineup on 2019, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team got better and better as the season unfolded.

“We won 14 games and led the CVC (Colonial Valley Conference) in shutouts; Nick [Petruso] was the leading goal scorer in the league,” said longtime PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe, who guided his team to a 14-7 record last fall.

“We went to the Mercer County Tournament semi and the sectional quarterfinal. That is an excellent season.”

Dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the guidelines put in place for competition, PHS has been rolling with the punches as it looks at an unusual season in 2020.

“It is more complex getting things started each day and then debriefing and releasing the team at the end of the training session,” said Sutcliffe, whose team is scheduled to start its 2020 campaign when it plays at Hamilton West on October 3.  more

BUSHMASTER: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Greta Bush prepares to boot the ball up the field in a game last year. Senior defender and team co-captain Bush will provide energy and skill for the Tigers. PHS opens regular season play by hosting Hamilton West on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, its preseason training has centered on getting the most out of every moment on the field.

With the 2020 season in doubt for months due to COVID-19 pandemic, the PHS players were more than appreciative when the Board of Education gave the green light for fall sports to proceed.

“They are thrilled; we keep on focusing on the fact that look we are here and who would have really thought and that we would be on the field in person with games next weekend,” said Rodriguez, whose team is coming off an 8-6-3 campaign last fall and starts its 2020 season by hosting Hamilton West on October 3.

“We are maximizing this opportunity and really, really enjoying it. The girls are positive about it. We have gotten through our team selections, we have announced our captains (seniors Lily Gabriello, Phoebe Frankel, and Greta Bush along with junior Sophia Lis) and we are excited for the season to happen.”

For the most part, practices have been business as usual once the players get on the field.

“It has been great, being with the girls and having practice,” said Rodriguez. more

GETTING A LEG UP: Hun School boys’ soccer player Jack Tarzy displays his skills in a game last fall as he controls the ball under pressure. Junior defender/midfielder Tarzy figures to be a key player for the Raiders this fall. Hun begin its 2020 campaign by hosting Life Center Academy on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Pat Quirk wasn’t sure if his Hun School boys’ soccer team would ever hit the field for the 2020 season.

With rivals Peddie and Lawrenceville canceling their fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Quirk was relieved and grateful when Hun gave its teams the green light to start their season.

“We are extremely lucky that the school is letting us have this activity,” said Raider head coach Quirk, who is in his 13th season at the helm of the program and guided the squad to a 6-10-3 record last fall as it advanced to the state Prep A semifinals and the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals.

“I think we are the only MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) school that is trying to have competition.”

While Hun is savoring the chance to compete, it is being cautious as it trains.

“Our school was very conservative when it came to allowing us to practice over the summer,” said Quirk.

“They gave us a week in August and then we hit that state two-week dead period. They allowed us to come out and we started tryouts on September 14. We just split into a junior varsity and varsity on Wednesday so the varsity has only really been playing together for the last three days. That is the biggest thing we tell them — you guys hold the season in your hands. Basically, we are still playing with masks on when we are practicing.”

The Raider players are thrilled to be back together. “They are excited, especially the seniors,” said Quirk, whose team starts its 2020 campaign when it hosts the Life Center Academy on October 3.

“They saw what happened to the spring athletes. We just keep saying that the goal is going to look different this year as a whole. The overall goal is always just to get better each day and to have fun with your friends and just to enjoy the opportunity that we have.”

A lot of players should get the opportunity to see action this fall for Hun.

“As long as I can remember, we haven’t had this deep a roster,” said Quirk.

“We have 19 kids and I would say one through 18 would probably see the field any day. It is going to be tough; we are going to have to find spots for guys.”

At forward, Quirk has a number of guys who could fill that spot in senior Amar Anand, sophomore Massimiliano Verduci, senior Levin Willems, and junior Hector Suriel.

“Amar can score a lot of goals so we could put him up there top as a senior and leader,” said Quirk.

“We are still toying with a couple of ideas. Mas scored a couple of goals for us last year and he is looking pretty good. Levin can get mixed in up there. Hector is a new kid from the Dominican who just got out of quarantine, he was late getting to school. We are expecting him to play up top as well.”

Across the midfield, junior Osman Bayaztoglu, sophomore Tyler Stark, junior Aden Spektor, freshman Conor Frykholm, and sophomore Will Zeng are in the mix.

“We have Osman in the midfield and maybe Tyler and Aden,” said Quirk.

“Conor is a freshman that came up from the middle school and has been doing well in practice. Will will probably play somewhere in the midfield.”

On defense, Quirk will be looking at junior Jack Tarzy, junior Lucas Mazzoni, junior John Balian, junior A.J. Torres, and freshman Joey Bucchere, among others.

“We see Jack right now in the back, he has played there a little bit in the past and he does well with the game in front of him and distributing,” said Quirk.

“Also in the back will be Aiden or Tyler; whoever is not in the midfield will probably play back there. Lucas has been pretty strong for us on the left side. He will be playing in a wingback area. John will also be on defense and A.J. will be too. We have a new freshman Joey who reminds me of Gibson Campbell ’20. He has got pace and a lot of ball control.”

Senior star goalie Alex Donahue will be controlling the defensive end of the field for Hun.

“Alex has one more year, he got bigger and he worked hard,” said Quirk.

“As soon as gyms were open, he got going and was back into it. He is a voice in the back. He can control his back line and distribute the ball.”

While 2020 figures to be an unusual year as Hun navigates the COVID-19 situation, Quirk believes his players will make the most of things.

“It is just enjoying the opportunity that we have and working to come together as a team,” said Quirk.

“We are going to get this opportunity right now to train with each other and to really grow as a unit and really build this bond that we continually talk about. It is just supporting each other, being good teammates with each other.”

https://www.hunschool.org/athletics

September 23, 2020


IN TRAINING: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team go through some drills at a recent preseason training session. The Panthers will open their 2020 campaign when they host Monroe on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team won’t get the chance this fall to go for its seventh straight state Prep B title as the tournament has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it could still be a memorable season for the squad.

“From a coaching standpoint, it is challenging because you are not playing in a tournament so you don’t have any hardware on the line,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta, who guided the Panthers to a 16-3-1 record in 2019 as the program won its sixth straight state Prep B title and also advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

“One of our goals every year is to defend our crown but the girls know that won’t happen this year so they just want to keep up the competitiveness of the program. Our No. 1 goal this year is to complete an entire season. They know that everybody has to participate and do their part as far as all of the protocols. They want to win as many games as possible and be competitive.”

The squad’s core of seniors is setting a positive tone as they look forward to competing in their final high school season.

“We have six seniors and with the spring season being canceled, they obviously had concerns because some of that impacted those who played spring sports,” said Trombetta, who team starts the 2020 season by hosting Monroe on October 1. more

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School field hockey player Jadyn Huff, left, controls the ball in a game last year. Sophomore forward Huff figures to be a go-to finisher for PDS this fall. The Panthers start their 2020 season by hosting the Pennington School on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There is a sense of gratitude for the Princeton Day School field hockey team as it has toiled through its preseason training.

With PDS having closed to in-person learning in March and the fall season in doubt for many months, the Panthers players were excited to get the go-ahead to start practice on August 24.

“It has been good for the kids to get back doing a fall sport and having a preseason after not being in school for almost five months,” said PDS head coach Heather Farlow, who guided the Panthers to an 8-7-3 record in 2019 and a trip to the state Prep B final.

“It is a nice change for all of them. It is challenging in so many ways but the kids have been really resilient and are just appreciating the connections with each other so much more.”

Farlow appreciates the leadership she is getting from senior captains Gianna Gasparro, Skye Harris, Olivia Phillips, and Aaliyah Sayed.

“I have four seniors returning from last year and because I knew that we were going to have to have smaller groups, these four seniors worked with me all summer,” said Farlow, whose team begins regular season action by hosting the Pennington School on October 2. more

SAVING GRACE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey goalie Audrey Blandford makes a save in a recent preseason workout. Junior star Blandford will be anchoring the Stuart defense again this fall. The Tartans start their 2020 season by hosting the Hun School on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having started coaching the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team in the mid-1980s, Missy Bruvik boasts a vast wealth of knowledge and experience.

But Bruvik has never seen anything like the 2020 preseason where she has been compelled to modify her tried and true coaching approach to incorporate COVID-19 protocols.

“I feel like because we were doing optional workouts in August, we used that time to learn how to best do some coaching to keep the kids engaged,” said Bruvik, who took a five-year hiatus from the program in the early 2000s to follow her daughter Kelly and son Ryan as they competed in college athletics in field hockey and golf, respectively. more

September 16, 2020

FAY DAY: Katie Fay enjoys some classroom time. Fay, a former standout swimmer at Duke University who came to Princeton Day School in 2009 and has helped run the school’s Annual Fund, Alumni Giving, and Capital Giving, became the PDS director of athletics and physical education in July. She is succeeding Tim Williams, who left the school this spring to take the same position at the University School of Milwaukee. (Photo provided by Katie Fay)

By Bill Alden

For Katie Fay, attending a retirement party for a beloved former swimming coach in 2009 proved to be a transformative experience.

As Fay, a former star swimmer at Deerfield Academy and Duke University who went on to the banking world, soaked in the testimonials to Hank Buntin, the longtime coach of the Summit YMCA Seals, she started re-examining the course of her life.

“There were hundreds of people who came out for his retirement just to say how he had impacted them and changed their lives,” said Fay.

“Listening to the stories and speeches that went on for hours, I thought ‘what am I doing now? I am not touching anyone’s life, I am not making any impact.’ It really made me think. I had always wanted to be at an independent school. If I stay in this, it is going to be one more bonus, one more promotion, and I am never going to get myself out.”

Inspired to make her impact, Fay began searching for a prep school job.

“I just starting to look at schools all over the country; I was applying to schools for jobs in admissions and advancement where I thought my skill set would be most transferable,” said Fay.

“One of the things I always asked when I was interviewing was how these schools feel about coaching. That was really important to me, not being a faculty member but being able to be engaged in the student side of life.”

Ending that search, Fay found a home at Princeton Day School, getting hired as the associate director of the Annual Fund in 2009.

“It was a beautiful campus, but it was the people that I met at the time,” said Fay, who became director of alumni giving a year later and was then named the director of capital giving and later joined the Thrive! Campaign as director of capital giving. more

GAME ON: Members of the Princeton High girls’ soccer team go through a training session before the 2019 season. Last week, the PHS athletes and coaches got the go-ahead from the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) for a fall varsity season. The teams started preseason practices last Monday with games to begin during the week of September 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Val Rodriguez was on pins and needles as the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) met last week to decide whether fall sports could go ahead for Princeton High varsity teams with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing.

“I was doubtful, I have to be honest,” said Rodriguez, the head coach of the PHS girls’ soccer team, reflecting on the September 8 meeting. “I remained as hopeful as I could be.”

Tiger football head coach Charlie Gallagher shared the concerns of his colleague as the meeting unfolded.

“I was nervous, some of the Board members that had some concerns talked initially before any Board member that spoke in the affirmative,” said Gallagher, noting the PHS fall coaches had formed a task force and met over the summer to formulate return-to-play plans and protocols along with Director of Athletics Brian Dzbenski. more

September 9, 2020

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Benito Gonzalez fires a pitch in 2009 game during his career with the Princeton High baseball team. Gonzalez, who went on the pitch for The College of New Jersey baseball program, has returned to his old stomping grounds, teaching at the Princeton Unified Middle School and coaching the PHS junior varsity baseball team. In addition, he took the helm of the Post 218 American Legion baseball team, succeeding longtime coach Tommy Parker. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

By Bill Alden

Benito Gonzalez experienced a turning point in his baseball career as he headed into the latter stages of his Princeton High career.

“I enjoyed playing for the team, I felt much better about my junior and senior seasons,” said Gonzalez, a 2010 PHS alum.

“Looking back, I feel like that is where I turned a corner and started thinking more about playing in college and things like that.”

Gonzalez went on to play college ball for The College of New Jersey, developing into a star relief pitcher.

“I threw a lot of two seamers and sliders at first; it was something that coach noticed,” said Gonzalez, who went 4-4 in 40 appearances in his career with the Lions, posting an ERA of 3.73 with 40 strikeouts in 70 innings. more

FINDING THEIR STRIDE: A group of girl runners show their form at the Princeton Recreation Department cross country camp held in late August at Greenway Meadows Park. The coed program, run by Princeton High cross country head coach Jim Smirk, drew approximately 45 runners. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With its dirt trails, steep hills, and manicured soccer fields nestled in a bucolic setting off of Rosedale Road, the Greenway Meadows Park is a superb training venue for distance runners.

Over the last two weeks of August, the park was teeming with runners as the Princeton Recreation Department held a two-week cross country program run by Princeton High cross country head coach Jim Smirk.

“When we found out that we were unlikely to have a school sponsored preseason, we really felt like there was an opportunity for us to provide them with some quality training and face to face time,” said Smirk, noting that the fall season is still in doubt due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Our goal was to provide a safe training environment and  with the opportunity to reconnect with each other. Our team is so important to each other and we wanted to do that.” more

September 2, 2020

SCHOLARLY APPROACH: Gigi Venizelos tags a runner in a 2019 game during her junior season for the Hun School softball team. While Venizelos didn’t get to compete in her senior year as the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she did receive a special honor, getting named as a recipient of the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame scholarship award. Star infielder Venizelos is headed to Colgate University, where she will be playing for its Division I softball program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Gigi Venizelos, traveling to Florida every spring for the Hun School softball team’s annual preseason trip proved to be a highlight of her high school career.

“I think what will stand out the most is how much the Quirks [head coach Kathy Quirk and assistant coach Bill Quirk] made the team and the program into a family,” said star shortstop and team co-captain Venizelos.

“Going down to Florida for the week before the season started was a staple in our team growth and becoming a family unit. I would say that is the most important thing of how much of a family we became.”

The jaunt to Florida this March will leave Venizelos with some unpleasant memories, as that is when she and her fellow seniors were called back to New Jersey and the players never saw the field together again as the season was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was tough, being the seniors, we were really looking forward to getting to play out our last season with the team,” said Venizelos. more

August 26, 2020

MORE TO COME: Paul Cooke showing his game face as he got ready for his sophomore season with the Swarthmore College baseball team. Former Princeton High standout Cooke has hit .267 with one homer and five RBIs over two abbreviated campaigns with the Garnet. (Photo by Brandon Hodnett, provided courtesy of Swarthmore College Athletics Communications)

By Bill Alden

Paul Cooke hasn’t been able to get in a complete season in his first two years with Swarthmore College baseball team, but he has still made an impact for the program.

As a freshman in 2019, former Princeton High standout Cooke hit .600 with six hits in 10 at-bats, one homer and four RBIs before getting sidelined for the rest of the season by an ankle injury.

This past spring, Cooke picked up two hits and an RBI before the season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving him a career batting average of .267 in college play.

Before he even took the field for his first game as a freshman, Cooke had developed a comfort level with the squad.

“I was really lucky to have six seniors my freshman year that were just really welcoming and did a great job of getting you up to speed and showing you the ropes,” said Cooke. more

STAGGERED START: Members of the Princeton High boys’ cross country team take off at the start of the Mercer County Championship meet last fall. While the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) gave the green light to fall sports last Thursday, there is no certainty that PHS athletes will be able to compete this fall. Under the NJSIAA plan, outdoor sports — football, cross country, field hockey, girls’ tennis, and soccer — can go ahead with practices to start on September 14 and competition beginning from September 28-October 2. At this point, Princeton Public Schools and private schools in town are still considering their options regarding the fall season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) gave the green light to fall sports last Thursday, a slew of questions remain before it will truly be game on for Princeton schools.

Under the NJSIAA plan, outdoor sports — football, cross country, field hockey, girls’ tennis, and soccer — can go ahead. Practices can begin on September 14 with girls’ tennis to start competition on September 28 and cross country, field hockey, and soccer to have opening day on October 1. Football will start on October 2.

The indoor fall sports — gymnastics and girls’ volleyball — will be moved to a winter start with practices beginning on February 16 and games on March 3. Winter sports teams can begin practice on December 3 with competition starting on December 21.

The NJSIAA, though, set forth a key caveat, noting that “all of these dates are subject to change based on guidance from the governor and Department of Health.”

An important date looming for Princeton High sports is September 14 as that is when Princeton Public Schools officials are slated to decide whether the district will be allowed to go ahead with a fall sports season.

With the neighboring West Windsor-Plainsboro district having already opted out of fall sports, PHS Athletic Director Brian Dzbenski recognizes that the PPS has other priorities besides sports.

“We in Princeton are really focused on bringing the kids back into the building as soon as possible and having teaching and learning going on,” said Dzbenski, noting that under the current district plan the school year is scheduled to start remotely on September 14 with the PHS students not slated to be on campus until October 19. more

August 19, 2020

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE: Chase Ealy, left, battles a foe during recent action in the Mercer County Amateur Master Soccer League (MCAMSL) at Mercer County Park. Former Princeton High boys’ soccer star Ealy helped organize a team of PHS alums, the Princeton Wanderers, to play in the MCAMSL this summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It has become a summer tradition for Princeton High boys’ soccer alums to meet up when they are back in town for some spirited pick-up games and camaraderie.

“Over the summer whenever we are home, we will always get together and have a couple of beers and kick around,” said former PHS soccer standout Chase Ealy ’15. “We hang out and get to see each other again.”

But with the COVID-19 limiting field availability, Ealy and his buddies decided to enter a team in the Mercer County Amateur Master Soccer League (MCAMSL).

“We were having a really hard time finding somewhere to play casually so we said ‘you know what, this league already exists, why don’t we see if we can play in the league,’” said Ealy of the league which plays at Mercer County Park.

“A bunch of Princeton boys have always played in the league on other teams but this year I said we have enough guys that we could have a Princeton team. As we reached out to people, they were saying yes.” more

SMOOTH STROKE: Travis Petrone of the West Windsor-Plainsboro all-star team shows his hitting form last Friday in the Southern New Jersey Babe Ruth 13-year-old state tournament at Bacon Field in Hopewell. Outfielder/pitcher Petrone helped the WW-P squad battle hard as it fell 7-3 to Nottingham on Friday and 8-5 to Ewing/Hopewell a day later to get knocked out of the double-elimination competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the West Windsor-Plainsboro all-star squad fell behind 5-0 to Nottingham in the second inning of the opener at the Southern New Jersey Babe Ruth 13-year-old state tournament last Friday evening, it could have thrown in the towel.

Instead, WW-P battled back, scoring three runs in the top of the fifth to narrow the gap to 5-3 in the game played at Bacon Field in Hopewell.

After Nottingham responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, WW-P got runners on first and third in the top of the seventh but the rally fizzled as it ended up falling 7-3.

“It was nice that the kids hung in there,” said WW-P manager Jason Petrone, whose roster included Princeton residents Eddie Kuczysnski, Michael Prete, Ben Walden, Alex Winters, and Travis Petrone. more