September 30, 2020

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

FAMILY BUSINESS: Jake Boone takes a big cut in a 2019 game during his sophomore season for the Princeton University baseball team. Foregoing his senior season for Princeton, star shortstop Boone recently signed a contract with the Washington Nationals to join the pro ranks. Over his Tiger career, Boone played in 72 games in two-plus seasons, hitting .250 with 71 hits, 31 runs, and 24 RBIs. Boone is adding the latest chapter to his family’s illustrious pro baseball history, whose line of Major League players includes his father (Bret), uncle (Aaron), grandfather (Bob), and great-grandfather (Ray). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jake Boone had every intention of returning for his senior season with the Princeton University baseball team in 2020-21 before turning professional.

Instead, he accelerated the process to fulfilling his lifelong dream when he signed with the Washington Nationals in August.

“Obviously it’s something I’ve worked for my whole life,” said Boone, reflecting on joining the National League franchise.

“To have a club give me an opportunity like the Nationals, I couldn’t be more excited. I can’t wait to start working and start continuing toward my dream. This is just another step. I’m excited.”

Boone is continuing to take classes that began August 31. It’s looking unlikely that any minor league baseball will take place before next spring, and Boone is training for that chance and hoping to stay on academic track with Princeton’s virtual classes. Past Tiger players who left early would finish their degrees in two fall semesters after missing a spring semester.

“If it was in-person, that’s probably how I would have done it – fall semester, fall semester – that’s the typical route,” said Boone.  more


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

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Grace Barbara boots the ball upfield in a game last fall during her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s soccer team. After assuming a reserve role in her first two years for the Tigers, former Princeton Day School standout Barbara was poised to battle for a starting spot this fall. But with the Ivy League canceling the 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barbara is going to have wait a little longer for her shot to be a starter. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Grace Barbara is learning a lot about patience during her career with the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

After playing just about every minute during her three seasons for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team as a star goalie, Barbara played in just two games for a half each in her first college season in 2018 and then got into two contests last fall, playing a full game in one appearance and a half in the other.

With star goalie Natalie Grossi, the Ivy League career leader in shutouts, having graduated this past June, Barbara was poised to battle for the starting role as a junior.

But with the Ivy League canceling the 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barbara is going to have wait a little longer for her shot to take charge in goal.

“Obviously I was very disappointed, but I completely understand that the University believes that is best and the Ivy League does as a collective group,” said Barbara, an ecology and evolutionary biology major who is hoping to go to medical school and took a class on pandemics this spring. more

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

ICE BREAKER: Sarah Filler controls the puck in a game this past winter during her sophomore season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95. This summer, Fillier was named to train with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Fillier just turned 20 this past June, but she is already on track to achieving a pair of ambitious goals in her ice hockey career.

Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95.

“I always plan to have a better season that the last one,” said the 5’4 Fillier, a native of Georgetown, Ontario who tallied 22 goals and 35 assists in each of her campaigns with the Tigers.

“I think the type of player that I am, you take points into that consideration and with that in mind, it would be great to be able to break records and set records.”

While Fillier didn’t increase her point total in her second season, she felt was a better player with a year of college experience under her belt.

“As a sophomore, I definitely had more confidence in the league for sure,” said Fillier, whose honors this winter included making American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) second-team All-America, first-team All-ECAC Hockey, first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-USCHO.

“I had been playing with Maggie [Connors] and Carly [Bullock] for a year and knowing how to handle school.” more

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

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT: Maggie Connors fires the puck up the ice this past winter during her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Star forward Connors tallied 22 goals and 25 assists in 2019-20 to help Princeton go 26-6-1 and win the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title. This summer, Connors is training with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually throughout the summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Maggie Connors will never forget the final game of her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

Star forward Connors contributed an assist as Princeton rallied from a 2-0 deficit to stun top-ranked Cornell 3-2 in overtime on March 8, earning the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title in the process.

“That game was probably my favorite game that I have played for Princeton so far,” said Connors, a 5’6 native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Labrador in Canada.

“It was incredible, I look back and we just fed off the energy in that building. We were so focused and so competitive. We were working so hard and we just had so much fun at the same time because we had never been there. There were no strings attached because we hadn’t even been to the ECAC final before. We had literally nothing to lose, it was definitely a thriller of a game.” more

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

PREMIER ATTRACTION: Ryan Ambler looks for an opening in action for the Archers of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). Former Princeton University men’s lax standout Ambler ’16 starred for the Archers as they advanced to the semifinals of the recently held PLL Championship Series. Midfielder Ambler ended up with nine points on four goals and five assists in the PLL competition. (Photo provided courtesy of PLL)

By Justin Feil

Ryan Ambler aims to make the most of his chances.

The 2016 Princeton University graduate had not made a shot as the Archers LC went into overtime against the Chrome LC in their Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship Series group game July 30.

“I was in somewhat of a shooting slump,” said Ambler, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Abington, Pa., who tallied 168 points in his Princeton career on 76 goals and 92 assists.

“The ball just wouldn’t go in. It was our third game. That night I’d hit the pipe, I’d hit the goalie three or four times. In my head, I was hoping just one of these falls. You kind of get in that rhythm where you wonder, when is this ball going to drop? It all happened so quickly. I have to give credit to guys like Tom Schreiber, another Princeton guy, and Grant Ament. They’re fantastic passers.” more

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

EXECUTIVE DECISION: Craig Robinson speaking at the “Thrive: Empowering and Celebrating Princeton’s Black Alumni” conference last fall on campus. Robinson, a former Princeton men’s hoops standout, college coach, and NBA executive, was recently named as the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). (Photo by Denise J. Applewhite, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Having seen many sides of basketball over the last 40 years, Craig Robinson is getting a new view of the game as he was named the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) last month.

Robinson was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year for the Princeton University men’s hoops program in the early ’80s, an assistant college hoops coach at Northwestern from 2000-2006, and a head coach at Brown and Oregon State from 2006-14. Since leaving coaching, he has been a college basketball analyst for ESPN, a front office executive with the Milwaukee Bucks and then the New York Knicks, as well as general manager of the Knick’s G League Westchester Knicks.

“It’s really the first time I’ve been able to bring all of my experiences to bear on one particular job,” said Robinson, 58, who worked as a bond trader, investment banker, and executive in the corporate world after graduating from Princeton before making the move into college coaching. more

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

August 12, 2020

SEEING RED: Doug Davis shouts out instructions in a 2019 game during his tenure as the head coach of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team. Davis, a former Princeton University men’s hoops star who guided PDS to its first state Prep B title this past winter, is heading down Route 206 to take the helm of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program. He will be succeeding longtime Big Red coach Ron Kane. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Doug Davis knows something about winning titles.

During his career with The Hun School boys’ basketball program, sharpshooting guard Davis helped the Raiders win state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League championships in 2007.

Going across town to Princeton for college, Davis started from day one with the Tigers and provided one of the greatest highlights in program history, draining a buzzer-beater to beat Harvard an Ivy League championship playoff game in 2011 during his junior season.

Getting into coaching, Davis started at the Berkshire School (Mass.) and then returned to the area to take the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball program in 2018 and guided the Panthers to the state Prep B title this past winter.

Now, Davis is bringing his championship touch down Route 206 as he recently became the new head coach of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program, succeeding longtime coach Ron Kane.

“I want to be at the top of this league again, that is definitely going to require some buy-in from the players but it is definitely doable with all of the resources that Lawrenceville has,” said Davis, reflecting on his vision for the program that posted a 6-19 record in the 2019-20 campaign.

“It is an amazing place to be. I truly believe that if we set our goals and sights on winning again, we can do it.” more

LION-HEARTED: Ben Amon fires a pitch this spring in his freshman season for The College of New Jersey baseball team. Amon, a former Princeton High standout, posted a 0-1 record in two starts for the Lions, piling up 16 strikeouts in 14 innings with a 3.21 ERA before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo provided courtesy of TCNJ Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Ben Amon experienced a baptism of fire in his first start on the mound for The College of New Jersey baseball team.

Former Princeton High star Amon gave up five runs in the first inning at Ursinus as he made his college debut on March 4.

“That was 100 percent a great learning experience; I went out in the first inning having the same mindset as in high school ball,” said Amon, reflecting on the rocky start.

“I thought I could just throw my stuff and it will be good enough to get them out. I quickly learned in that first inning that wasn’t going to be the case.”

Settling down after that early barrage which saw Ursinus bang out five hits, including a two-run homer, Amon yielded only two hits and picked up six strikeouts over the next six innings as TCNJ fell 5-3. more

IN THE SWING: Jackson Durbin of the West Windsor Plainsboro Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-star team follows through on a swing last weekend at the Southern New Jersey State tourney. After falling 5-0 to host Hamilton/Northern Burlington last Saturday in its opening game of the double-elimination competition, WWP topped Lawrence 6-0 on Monday. The squad is slated to get a rematch with Hamilton/NB on August 11 with the winner advancing to the championship round against Atlantic Shore on Wednesday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Andrew Liggio realized that his West Windsor Plainsboro Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-star team was in for a challenge as it faced host Hamilton/Northern Burlington at Switlik Park in the Southern New Jersey State tourney.

“Hamilton is a great team, it is well coached and they have been together for three years,” said WWP manager Liggio.

“They have gone through the states back-to-back years and have played in the Mid-Atlantic tournament. They have everyone back.”

While WWP fell behind 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Liggio wasn’t discouraged.

“I liked how the boys came out and played defense,” said Liggio, whose squad includes Princeton residents Jude Blaser, Jackson Durbin, Daniel Harlan, Leyton Shroff, Jonathan Tao, and Jake Zuckerman. “I think our bats were a little sleepy to start.” more