June 2, 2021

Senior Goalie Wexler Shows Grit, Athleticism as PDS Girls’ Lax Falls 11-8 to Lawrenceville


SAVING GRACE: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse goalie Hailey Wexler makes a leaping save in a game this spring. On May 25, senior star Wexler made 15 saves in an 11-8 defeat to Lawrenceville. Two days later, Wexler recorded 11 saves in a losing cause as PDS fell 14-9 to Hillsborough High in its season finale. The Panthers ended the spring with an 8-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

This past winter, Hailey Wexler provided scoring punch to help the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team go 5-0-1.

Once spring rolled around, senior Wexler turned her attention to defense, starring at goalie for the PDS girls’ lax team.

While Wexler is accomplished at both sports, lacrosse became her priority over the years.

“I focus on lacrosse more; if I had something on the same day at the same time, I would pick lacrosse over hockey,” said Wexler.

“All of my coaches already knew which one came first. Playing hockey makes me more athletic. I think I might see better places to shoot in hockey from being a lacrosse goalie.”

Wexler displayed her athleticism in the cage last week as the Panthers hosted Lawrenceville, making 15 saves in a losing cause as PDS fell 11-8 to the Big Red

“We wanted to get the win and that didn’t happen,” said Wexler. “We came in saying this is the best team we have had in a while. We thought this was going to be the closest game we have had against Lawrenceville in a while and it was.”

The Panthers dug an early hole falling behind 5-0 but rallied to narrow the gap to 7-4 at halftime.

Making some key stops to stem the Lawrenceville tide, Wexler helped spark the comeback.

“In my head, I need to get that save and I think that changes the momentum sometimes,” said Wexler.

“I did get a little worried but once we started scoring, we started picking it up and it helped a lot. I started to make a few more saves, I felt momentum. Our halftime talks have been really good recently and that give us momentum too.”

In the second half, the PDS defense tightened up as the Panthers made it an 8-6 game with 17:51 left in regulation but the Big Red ultimately held on for the win.

“It makes me feel more confident, it makes me feel better,” said Wexler of the defensive effort which was led by fellow seniors Ella McIntyre, Caroline Topping, and Alex Hollander.

“That can definitely change the momentum of the game, especially for the other team. If they see it, they start to struggle. It helps a lot. I made one save that really changed it; the one on my knee changed it for me because this game started to get close again. But that 5-0 start, we just couldn’t make that up.”

As PDS has faced some tough foes down the stretch of the season, a battle-tested Wexler has become more confident.

“I have made a lot of progress from sophomore year to now,” said Wexler.

“We had some easier competition earlier in the season. I had a little drop in the middle of the season where you start playing harder teams. I wasn’t used to that yet. In the last few games, I feel like I have definitely stepped it up. Against Mount St Mary’s, (a 19-11 loss on May 22 which saw Wexler make 13 saves), I stepped it up and it fed into this game too.”

Next year, Wexler will look to keep progressing as she has committed to attend The College of New Jersey and play for its women’s lax program.

“It is closer to home; they just made it to the quarterfinals so they have a really strong D-III program,” said Wexler, who made 11 saves in a losing cause as PDS fell 14-9 to Hillsborough High in its season finale last Thursday to end the spring with an 8-7 record.

“My goalie coach [Bob Henderson] who I have been working with since fifth grade is the goalie coach there. I really looking forward to getting four more years with him.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas credited her players with making a strong effort against the Big Red.

“We thought coming in that we matched up pretty well this year,” said Thomas.

“The girls did rally, they never quit throughout. That is the piece as a coach that you like. For the seniors, this was their chance. If you hear a little frustration, it is OK. We know we were right there and we just have to keep that in mind. Those unforced turnovers hurt us.”

In the view of Thomas, Wexler and the PDS defense stood tall as it battled Lawrenceville. “She has been playing great, everything is good,” said Thomas of Wexler.

“I told the defense before the game that we were going to win it at that end of the field. I was proud of the defense.”

At the offensive end, the Panthers shared the wealth with Ali Surace scoring two goals and Paige Gardner, Elle Anhut, Sophie Jaffe, Tessa Caputo, Haley Sullivan, and Kelly Christie chipping in one apiece. “That is great, you always want that scoring balance,” said Thomas.

Wexler, for her part, saw the performance against the Big Red as a good sign for the program on both the short and long term.

“I do like the way we battled; we could have gotten to more ground balls,” said Wexler.

“I think we need to answer a few more goals when were down but I am happy. We have a very young offense so I think it will be really good in the years to come.”