September 7, 2022

Coming Off Stirring Run to Prep A Title Last Fall, Hun Girls’ Soccer Knows it Has Target on its Back

RILED UP: Hun School girls’ soccer player Riley Hayes controls the ball in a game last season. Senior midfielder and tri-captain Hayes, the team’s leading scorer last year with 11 goals and three assists as the Raiders won the state Prep A title, figures to be the offensive catalyst again this season for Hun. The Raiders open their 2022 campaign by playing the Hill School (Pa.) on September 9 in the Varsity Soccer Jamboree hosted by Hill. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming off a winless season in a 2020 campaign abbreviated due to COVID concerns, the Hun School girls’ soccer team snuck up on its foes last year.

Catching fire down the stretch, Hun produced a stirring run in the state Prep A tournament, culminating with a 4-3 overtime win against perennial power Pennington in the final to give the program its first Prep title since 2014.

As the Raiders head into the 2022 campaign, they know they have a bull’s eye on their backs.

“We are using that as motivation, we were the underdogs last year and now we have to defend that Prep title,” said Hun head coach Jenn Barrett, who guided the Raiders to 12-5-2 record last fall after they went 0-4-1 the year before. “We know people are going to bring their competitive greatness to us. We are working every practice and every opportunity that we have to push it so that we are prepared for those moments.”

Based on how preseason training has gone, the Hun players seem prepared for that challenge.

“Things have been going super well, we have a really good group of girls,” said Barrett, whose team is opening its 2022 campaign by playing the Hill School (Pa.) on September 9 in the Varsity Soccer Jamboree hosted by Hill. “The girls are really excited and definitely confident in themselves, their ability and the opportunities.”

Barrett is looking for senior star and tri-captain Riley Hayes, Hun’s leading scorer last fall with 11 goals and three assists, to create offensive opportunities in the midfield.

“She is just a wonderfully competitive, she hypes everybody up,” said Barrett of Hayes who has committed to attend Bucknell University and play for its women’s soccer program. “She wants to be in the tough moments, she is someone who wants the ball when something needs to happen.”

Other players who can make things happen in the midfield include senior Neve Palmeri (5 goals in 2021), junior Olivia Spektor (2 goals, 5 assists), junior Sophia Cannuli, sophomore Julia Espinosa (1 goals, 2 assists), and junior Maddie Shinn (1 assist).

“Neve has gotten better and better every year; she is showing her best mindset and best shape this year which is awesome,” said Barrett. “She is great, she is playing center mid with Riley. I will have Olivia somewhere in the center, either defensive center mid or center mid. She is definitely a threat, even from 40 yards out. I have her more as a defensive mid who can move up. What we noticed last year is that how she is playing really sets the tone. Sophia is probably going to play a winger or outside mid. Julia has come back a lot stronger than last year physicality wise. She is playing in the center. Maddie is a very feisty player and she will be able to play on the outside wing or midfield.”

The one-two punch of juniors Mackenzie Turner (7 goals, 3 assists) and Tessa Falcone (2 goals, 3 assists) figure to be catalysts from the forward spot.

“They are amazing sparks, they are both threats,” said Barrett. “They can play anywhere, midfield or up top. I can play them at wingers, I can play them as center forwards. We will be looking to them for scoring opportunities. Their quickness and speed is essential.”

Senior Lauren Soler (1 goal, 1 assist) and junior Hannah Yanni provide depth to the attack.

“Lauren is a returner, she had broken her elbow last year midseason,” said Barrett. “She is healthy this year and she will be playing up top. Hannah is new to varsity and is definitely somebody I will put up top.”

On defense, a veteran unit of senior tri-captain Tooni Olaleye, sophomore Allie Devlin, senior tri-captain Tatum D’Apolito, junior Gabi Rollins, and senior Maya Zeruld will be patrolling the back line.

“Tooni is definitely leading the way in the center,” said Barrett. “We have Allie who has come up really big in our scrimmages. She started last year as a freshman at outside back. She came back much stronger too: she will play outside back. We are going to have Tatum at the other outside back, she has been awesome. Gabi is another big returner who is going to get a lot more time this year. She has gotten stronger and bigger. She is really versatile. Maya was out injured both her sophomore and junior year. She is coming back midseason and will probably be playing defense.”

Hun’s last line of defense, junior goalie Zoey Palmer, is primed for another big campaign.

“Zoey is one of the best goalkeepers in the county,” asserted Barrett. “She is constantly working on her game and constantly reflecting. She is the ultimate teammate. She is leading back there and gives it 100 percent in effort. She can get the ball up the field. She asks after every practice and every game what can I work on. She will stay after practice and work on it, she is absolutely amazing.”

As Hun puts in its work collectively this fall, the blueprint for their effort will be John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, the famed UCLA basketball coach’s framework of characteristics and traits that help define a successful person and athlete.

“Every preseason and throughout the season we work on the pyramid; we talk about it and we read the book together,” said Barrett. “We need to reach competitive greatness, being the best of what you are capable of being. That is the top of the pyramid. We need to continue our competitiveness. I love it because this is why we play sports. It is to have these keys to success in life. This is what I learned from sports and I want to pass it on. You rarely remember the records but you remember those things.”