June 30, 2021

Despite Taking Some Lumps Down the Stretch, PDS Girls’ Lax Raised the Level of its Game

IN SYNC: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Ella McIntyre brings the ball upfield in a game this spring. Senior defender McIntyre helped PDS go 8-7 and advance to the state Prep B semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team lost seven of its last nine games this spring after getting off to a 6-0 start, Jill Thomas still views the 2021 campaign as a success.

“I am going to go back to the beginning and say we are so grateful to have had a season,” said PDS head coach Thomas.

“I think that is the first thing all of the kids would agree to. You start 6-0 and we take care of all of the teams that we normally play and then we hit a stretch where played a lot of the top teams in the state in New Jersey. We played five ranked teams in our last seven games. I think we played some of our best lacrosse in losing efforts.”

The Panthers played hard in their season finale, falling 14-9 at Hillsborough on May 27.

“We battled all the way to the end, I am real proud of the kids,” said Thomas.

“We got to put all of the seniors in for the final five or so minutes. It was good.”

While PDS took some lumps, the program should be better for it in the long run.

“We learned a lot for it, we learned where we have to go,” said Thomas.

“It would have been nice if it was not all in a row but that is how the season unfolded. I think the seniors instilled in them a sense of pride that they were going to play all the way to the end no matter what. We played Mount St Mary’s on a Saturday (a 19-11 loss on May 22) and had a great game when it was 90-plus degrees. We fought hard, hard there and gave them a run for their money early.”

Thomas credited her senior group of Hailey Wexler, Vanessa Devin, Alex Hollander, Caroline Topping, Ella McIntyre, Anna Ellwood, Jordan Young, and Rachel Richter with demonstrating that fighting spirit to the end.

“I think when you look at the defensive unit with Hailey at goalie, Vanessa, Alex, Caroline, and Ella; they are five seniors who held down the fort back there all season for us,” said Thomas.

“Anna playing in her first year could play anywhere for us and we were happy about that. Then you have Jordan quarterbacking the offense. Rachel had an early injury and then came back and finished the season with us. She understood her role and was a great teammate.”

The PDS offense was triggered by a group of skilled younger players, including junior Maggie Zarish-Yasunas (13 goals, 10 assists in 2021), junior Ali Surace (25 goals, 17 assists), junior Elle Anhut (16 goals, 17 assists), freshman Tessa Caputo (42 goals, 17 assists), sophomore Paige Gardner (29 goals, 8 assists), and sophomore Sophie Jaffe (26 goals, 12 assists).

“The future looks bright at the offensive end and all over really,” asserted Thomas.

“We bring back our midfield. Maggie, Ali, and Elle were named as captains for the 2022 season and they are thrilled. They will be seniors who will play all four years on the varsity so that is good. Tessa, Paige, and Sophie had good numbers so the future looks bright. It is going to be a good one, it will be nice to be back total.”

Looking ahead, Thomas is confident that those returning players will take a page out of the seniors’ book in terms of camaraderie and competitiveness.

“I think they learned how important your teammates are and team chemistry is to the ability to play when things aren’t going well and things are challenging,” said Thomas.

“That is the most important thing — to never quit and always be there for each other and give your best effort every day. It is the whole idea of team. These seniors are such good friends, it just was there on the field all of the time. They are a class act. They play the game well and they play it how it should be played.”