November 17, 2021

Senior Stars Ramos, Vasquez Helped Lead the Way As PDS Boys’ Soccer Topped Ranney in Sectional Final

FIRST STRIKE: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player John Ramos boots the ball last Thursday against the Ranney School in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) South Jersey Non-Public B sectional final. Senior star Ramos, who was sidelined for much of the season with a leg injury, helped seventh-seeded PDS top fifth-seeded Ranney 3-1 to earn the title in the program’s first appearance in the sectional. Senior William Vasquez scored two goals in the win with senior Milan Shah adding the third. The Panthers went on to lose 3-1 to Gill St. Bernard’s in the Non-Public B state final on Sunday to end the fall with a 12-12 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

John Ramos feared that his senior season for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team might have been over just after it started.

“I got hurt in the first game, the first 10 minutes,” said senior defender and co-captain Ramos. “It was a high ankle sprain, it was really bad.”

Ramos was sidelined indefinitely, disappointed to only be able to look on as PDS struggled in the early going.

“It has been difficult on a team you have played with for so long,” said Ramos. “You want them to succeed, it is tough to see losses.”

But Ramos returned to action on October 28 as PDS  defeated Spotswood 2-1 in a tune-up for the program’s first-ever appearance in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) South Jersey Non-Public B sectional final.

With Ramos patrolling the back line, the seventh-seeded Panthers made an improbable run in the sectional, topping 10th-seeded Gloucester Catholic 8-0 in the first round, upsetting second-seeded Holy Cross Prep 3-1 in the quarters and beating sixth-seeded Bishop Eustace 3-2 in the semis to earn a spot in the final at fifth-seeded Ranney School last Thursday.

“I love this team,” said Ramos. “It just feels great to be back and contribute to the team’s success.”

Experiencing unprecedented success, PDS topped Ranney 3-1 to earn a sectional crown.

In assessing his role, Ramos aims to keep cool under pressure. “I think it is just trying to keep the team composed,” said Ramos.

“A lot of times, the younger players aren’t used to the high intensity game that varsity can be. I had seniors to look up and calm me down. I just pass this on.”

The squad’s togetherness helped spark the sectional run. “I think it is just the chemistry that we have off the field,” said Ramos.

“We have developed a lot as a team and more than a team, we are just a family. I think that carries the team a long way.”

Another senior, William Vasquez, helped carry the team to the title, scoring two goals in the second half to give PDS a 2-0 lead and it never looked back on the way to the title.

The Panthers were unfazed by going on the road for the last three games of the sectional.

“With the amount of games we have had away, it is insane,” said Vasquez.

“I wanted this game to be home but when we found out it is away, it was wow. It is a good feeling, winning away as well. We just enjoy the pressure.”

Vasquez came through under pressure on the first goal, failing to capitalize on a penalty kick but then swooping in on the rebound and slotting it into the back to the net.

Minutes later, Vasquez raced down the wing and took a feed from classmate Milan Shah and blasted a volley past the Ranney goalkeeper.

“Milan gave me a good through ball and then I just sprinted as hard as I could,” recalled Vasquez. “Then I saw the keeper coming out and I got the angle right there.”

PDS head coach Brian Thomsen sensed his team could make a run in the sectional if it played hard.

“We had a classroom session a couple of weeks back where we talked about the bracket,” said first-year head coach Thomsen.

“I have some experience playing against these high schools when I was growing up and went to Monsignor Donovan. I knew what type of soccer we were going to get from a lot of the guys we play into bracket. We just talked about it and said we can win this thing and we should really go after it, especially this being the first year we are in the NJSIAA and in one of these tournaments.”

With the PDS knotted in a scoreless stalemate against Ranney heading into the second half, Thomsen made some tactical adjustments.

“We talked about how we wanted to start getting their center backs chasing the ball out wide,” said Thomsen.

“Once they do that, they are going to start getting a little bit stretched and we can rotate Vasquez in a way that allows  him to go at the center backs and draw those guys out. Once we did that, it really opened up the game.”

Vasquez responded by changing the course of the game with his two tallies.

“For me it is finding who Will can have the most success against on the field and on the back line,” added Thomsen, who got a third goal in the win from Shah.

We moved him from left wing to center to right wing back to left wing and then up top. It is all about me and him communicating, saying where do you want to go. As soon as we figure that out, it is tough stopping him.”

The PDS defense did a good job stopping the Ranney attack.

“The guys behind him all played really, really well,” said Thomsen. “That is really the main thing, not giving up the goals we used to give up.”

In Thomsen’s view, one of the main keys to the title run was the squad’s chemistry.

“It was really good to see the guys talk about togetherness and the family,” said Thomsen.

“If we are going to do this, we can actually go do it and we enjoy it. I feel like there are a lot of high school programs that don’t enjoy it so that is the most important part.”

Thomsen enjoyed leading the Panthers to the title in his debut season at the helm of the program.

“I never won a state game when I was in high school, every year we got knocked out in the first round,” said Thomsen, whose squad went on to lose 3-1 to Gill St.
Bernard’s in the Non-Public B state final on Sunday to end the fall with a 12-12 record.

“I have been knocked out by Bishop Eustace, Holy Cross and CBA (Christian Brothers Academy) so this whole time, it feels good. If I couldn’t do it as a player I might as well try to do it as a coach. This is huge for our school, this is huge for everything. It is going to really help attract players and the student athletes that the school wants as well.”

Helping PDS get the championship in his final campaign was huge for Ramos.

“It means a lot, I remember freshman year, I didn’t know what it meant,” said Ramos.

“We lost in the Prep B final. It is nice as a senior to win something, it means a lot.”