Fueled by Hat Trick from Junior Star Frykholm, Hun Boys’ Soccer Defeats Pennington 3-0
SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE: Hun School boys’ soccer player Mass Verduci celebrates a goal last fall as Connor Frykholm looks on in the background. Junior star Frykholm had a lot to celebrate last Thursday, scoring three goals as Hun defeated Pennington 3-0. The Raiders, who defeated Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 4-2 last Saturday in improving to 5-2, play at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 28, host Life Center Academy on October 1, and then play at Steinert on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Even though the Hun School boys’ soccer team lost three times to the Pennington School last fall, Connor Frykholm believed that the squad was poised for a breakthrough against their powerhouse rival when the foes met last Wednesday.
“We were thinking on last year, it was the first time we played them when we lost 3-2 in overtime,” said Hun junior midfielder Frykholm. “We had that feeling coming into this game that we are just going to go in there and battle.”
Frykholm got things going for the Raiders as he converted a free kick in the first minute of the contest to give Hun a 1-0 lead.
“It starts coming from the back, win a great head ball, all pressure and all effort from there,” said Frykholm, reflecting on the tally. “We got a foul and I was able to tuck it in.”
With just under seven minutes left in the first half, Frykholm cooly slotted in a penalty kick to put Hun ahead 2-0 going into intermission.
“It is just step up and have confidence, I know what I have to do,” said Frykholm. “I have taken them before I had the confidence to do it.”
Displaying that confidence, Frykholm added a third goal with 9:39 left in regulation to put the finishing touch on a comprehensive 3-0 win for the Raiders. It marked Hun’s first win over Pennington since 2010 and sparked a raucous postgame celebration as the players sprinted across the field to hug goalie Diego Pena and posed for cell photos in the aftermath.
Despite the frustrating losses to Pennington last year, Frykholm never doubted that Hun would hold off the Red Hawks last Wednesday.
“With this new group of guys coming in, we have got the chemistry,” said Frykholm. “All of these guys are going to work for each other as well as people coming off the bench. Every single person played a part in today. We knew we were getting it done.”
In getting it done on his curling, long range kick in the second half that sealed the deal, Frykholm took an aggressive approach.
“It was Zach Stark who gave me the ball,” recalled Frykholm. “I took one touch and just picked up my head. I heard Mass [Verduci] calling from the other side of the field but I saw the keeper off his line a little bit and decided to take a strike.”
In addition to his offensive heroics, Frykholm helped key a stifling defensive effort by the Raiders.
“We stayed back a little more from what we did in the first half,” said Frykholm. “We were able to give up zero goals against a top-ranked team in the country. I think it speaks a lot to our defense.”
As his role on the Raiders has evolved, Frykholm is confident that he can keep scoring goals.
“I am getting into a lot more attacking positions this year,” said Frykholm. “I am a lot more attacking because we have Will [Zeng] playing the six (defensive midfielder) now with more of a defensive mindset. I think that going forward, the coaches believe in my attacking skills. being able to find people and getting on the scoresheet too.”
Hun head coach Pat Quirk urged his players to take an attacking mentality in dealing with the Red Hawks.
“We knew that we could hold them,” said Quirk. “I know we are a little bit better than last year, and we have guys with experience from last year coming back. We said, ‘look we are not going to back down, we are going to play scared.’ It is tough not to play scared against that team because they are a powerhouse. They have a lot.”
Quirk credits Frykholm with giving the Raiders a lot all over the field.
“Connor’s offense is great, but his defense is just as good with shutting down some of their midfielders and some of the tackles he has made,” said Quirk. “That shot was unbelievable. Coming in, he played the six and liked to play a little more defensive. We know he can get dangerous. He can wreak havoc if he can drive and get shots off like that. He has had a couple of goals like that this season that were phenomenal.”
Hun produced a phenomenal defensive effort as it held the fort in the second half, blunting a number of Pennington attacks.
“They were making wave after wave and they were flying,” said Quirk, referring to Pennington’s offensive approach as it looked to rally after halftime. “The back line was led by Tyler Stark. Michael D’Aulerio and Alden Hill have both been super strong. We knew if they broke through the midfield, we had those guys in the back.”
Sophomore goalie Pena produced a strong effort in the win, recording five saves.
“If they broke past them, we have Diego,” added a smiling Quirk. “He is a great asset, he makes some great saves. He is good with his feet; he sees the game really well. He made some saves in the first half that carried us along.”
While the win over Pennington was huge for the Hun program, Quirk doesn’t want his players to get overconfident.
“I keep telling them that you can’t let one result define the season; we had a bad game on Sunday (a 3-2 loss to Malvern Prep (Pa.) and this was a great win today,” said Quirk, whose team topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 4-2 last Saturday to improve to 5-2 and plays at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 28, hosts Life Center Academy on October 1, and then plays at Steinert on October 3.
“We have got to focus on the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) and hopefully we can keep the record good. and get in the top eight for the Mercer County Tournament.”
In Frykholm’s view, Hun did serve notice to the county that it could be something special by virtue of the win over the Red Hawks.
“I think it gives a statement to whole Mercer County that we are here to play this year,” asserted Frykholm. “We beat the reigning champions from last year in a comfortable 3-0 win.”