September 7, 2022

After Advancing to Non-Public B Title Game Last Year, PDS Boys’ Soccer Bringing Greater Self-Belief into ’22

KICKING OFF: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Joaquin Rodriguez sends the ball upfield in a 2021 game. Senior midfielder and co-captain Rodriguez is primed to trigger the PDS offense this season. The Panthers start their 2022 campaign by playing at Burlington Township High on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team made its debut in the Non-Public B tournament last fall, it didn’t appear to be a title contender as it brought an 8-11 record into the competition.

But seventh-seeded PDS produced a stirring run, winning the South Jersey sectional title before falling 3-1 to Gill St. Bernard’s in the Non-Public B state final.

Heading into the 2022 season, Panther head coach Brian Thomsen believes the tournament run had proven to be a confidence builder for his returning players.

“The guys got a little bit of belief in them now that we have been through a year of playing in the South Jersey Non-Public B,” said Thomsen, who guided PDS to a 12-12 record in his debut season at the helm of the program. “They feel a little bit more confident that they can have some success in the postseason.”

Thomsen believes that his squad is primed for a successful fall.

“We have a good group of guys on the field to go to battle,” said Thomsen, whose team plays at Burlington Township High on September 8 in its season opener.”

Senior midfielder and team tri-captain Joaquin Rodriguez figures to be a key guy for the Panthers.

“Joaquin is an awesome kid; he is defining what it is to be a PDS student, everybody looks forward to dealing with him,” said Thomsen. “He been such a great ambassador for the program. He is definitely excited about the year. He is excited to be a leader and not in the shadows of the guys that have been here in the past couple of years. He has really embraced the entire mantra that we might not be the best soccer team out there but we are definitely somebody who is going to work our tails off. We are a group that is going to defend really well and play together which is really important.”

PDS should get some good work in the midfield from senior Michael Zebrowski and sophomore Todd Devin.

“Michael didn’t play last year and took the year off,” said Thomsen. “He is very good. Todd was a freshman last year who pretty much played every minute in every game.”

The trio of senior Julian Liao, junior Yaseen Mousa, and junior Gyan Gautam will be looking to produce at forward.

“Julian came on very strong at the end of last year, we are looking forward to having him,” said Thomsen. “Yaseen was playing outside back for us because we had Milan Shan and William Vasquez. Those were the guys up top doing the heavy lifting so he is excited to move forward into an attacking role. Gyan was coming off the bench last year, he should be a really good player for us. He is in a
good spot.”

Along the back line, senior Shay Bhens and senior
tri-captain Raag Desikan will be leading the way.

“Shay was good enough to play last year and start at center back, but the issue with him was that he had a lot of injuries that were bothering him,” said Thomsen. “I think we finally got him to a healthy spot this year. If we can get Shay and Raag at center back that allows for Todd and Michael to sit there in the defensive mid spots with Joaquin playing the attacking mid.”

The quartet of senior Jared Sandberg, sophomore Hart Liu Nowakoski, senior Oliver Hall, and sophomore Penn von Zelowitz provide some versatility for the Panthers

“Jared is another guy who might see time in the middle of the field and outside back,” said Thomsen, whose group of reserves will include senior Aaron Herscovici, sophomore Max Schragger, senior Joshua Chu, junior Jameson Reilly, sophomore Henry West, and junior Sebastian Rzeczycki.

“We will have another kid, Hart, who is going to be an outside back as well as central attacking midfielder to give Joaquin a break. Oliver is a lacrosse and hockey player by trade who decided that he wanted play soccer this year. He brings athleticism to the group that we really don’t have. Penn will see some time at outside winger.”

Senior goalie and tri-captain John Mazzarisi is poised for a big final campaign for PDS.

“John is a fantastic shot stopper, he has gotten a lot better with his communication,” said Thomsen, noting that sophomore backup Oren Yakoby shows a lot of potential. “He is able to strike the ball with his goal kicks and punts. His distribution has gotten a lot better. I am excited to see how he grows into it, I think the big thing that he and I talked about during the winter time last year was his ability to keep shutouts and being prideful about shutting people out. That is what we are going with. He makes big saves all of the time.”

As PDS goes through a challenging schedule this fall, Thomsen believes the squad will peak down the stretch.

“We are treating it like we did last year with a building blocks approach,” said Thomsen. “I think ultimately we know at the end of the year that we are going to be in a position where we can make some noise in the state tournament. We will play a schedule that is very interesting. We are kind of like the University of Notre Dame from a football perspective. We get to go play an independent schedule. We can play who we want and then we have our prep school rivalries. It is a really cool experience for these kids, especially towards the latter part of the year with the counties, Prep B, and Non-Public. We are excited.”