October 11, 2017

Building on Effort in Valiant Loss to Pennington, Hun Boys’ Soccer Heading in Right Direction

DEFENSIVE STAND: Hun School boys’ soccer player Dylan Smith, right, marks a foe in a game last season. Senior Smith has helped to shore up the Hun defensive unit this fall. The Raiders, now 2-7, play at Princeton Day School on October 12 before hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on October 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

On paper, it looked to be a mismatch when the Hun School boys’ soccer team hosted Pennington in mid-September.

Hun entered the September 19 contest winless while powerful Pennington, which started the season ranked No. 1 nationally, had just one loss.

But Hun didn’t follow the script, jumping out to a 1-0 halftime lead and battling valiantly before eventually falling 2-1.

In the view of Hun head coach Pat Quirk, that performance was a confidence builder for his squad despite the final result.

“That was a jump start for us where we saw what kind of potential we have,” said Quirk.

Building on that effort, Hun won two of its next four games, topping Gill St. Bernard’s 2-1 on September 23 and edging the George School (Pa.) 2-1 last Wednesday.

“We were in a lot of close games, like the one with Pennington, and we just weren’t getting the results that we wanted, that is how soccer goes,” said Quirk. “We got a win against Gill and we beat George last week too.”

Bad luck on the injury front has kept Hun from playing its best soccer.

“We haven’t had a complete team at all due to injuries,” said Quirk. “We have been banged up.”

The addition of post-graduate Alex Peeters, a native of Belgium, has given Hun some bang on the attacking end.

“Alex is a nice fit, he can put the ball in the back of the net,” said Quirk of Peeters, who had a goal and an assist in the win over George.

“He is not about himself, he is more about the team. He is a really great fit for the culture of our team. He is always trying to help the other guys out.”

The growth of junior star Elijah Smarr into a leader has helped boost the Raiders.

“Elijah has really stepped up for us; he is one of our captains,” said Quirk of Smarr, who had the game-winning tally against Gill.

“This is the first year that we picked captains as a coaching staff, and we thought he was a kid who we could have for two years that was going to build the culture of the team that we want and put guys on his shoulders. That is how he scored that goal against Gill; it was the end of the second overtime and he just took the ball and said ‘alright I am going to do this.’ He has been that way in the middle of the field.”

Two veterans, junior James Muldowney and senior Dylan Smith, have helped shore up the Hun back line.

“James has gotten three or four assists for us and he is playing outside back which is a position he has never played before because he is usually a midfielder,” said Quirk.

“He has done everything that we have asked him to do, playing in the outside back role. He has been a huge help for us. Dylan has come back from an injury and he has been playing in the back.”

Senior Chris Pontrella, a star infielder for the Hun baseball team who was converted to goalie this fall, has made huge progress in his new spot.

“We know we are going to give up shots but the kids are confident that he is going to make stops,” said Quirk of Pontrella who made 16 saves in the loss to Pennington.

“He has played goal for all of a month and half now. He is a fearless kid and you can’t ask any more from him.”

With Hun playing at Princeton Day School on October 12 before hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on October 14 in a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) contest, Quirk is looking for his players to show more confidence around the net.

“It is getting healthy and just continuing to work on playing consistently and finishing our opportunities,” said Quirk, whose team fell 4-0 at Blair Academy last Saturday in its MAPL opener to move to 2-7.

“We create the opportunities. We just haven’t been able to finish too many of them.”