December 7, 2022

With DeSimone Moving into Head Coaching Role, It Should be Business as Usual for PDS Girls’ Hockey

CHASING SUCCESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Lauren Chase brings the puck up the ice in action last winter. Senior defenseman Chase is poised for a big final campaign for the Panthers. PDS hosts Cranford on December 9 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Julie DeSimone is confident that the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team won’t miss a beat as she takes the helm of the program.

Having served as an assistant coach for PDS over the last four seasons, DeSimone brings continuity as she succeeds previous head coach John Ritchie.

“We have such a good coaching team and even under John, it was so collaborative, it didn’t feel like there was hard, fast hierarchy,” said DeSimone. “It was a nice transition, just continuing to work with Mike [Adams] and Jaimie [Davis] and having Shavonne [Leacy] on board as well. That has been a huge advantage, she has been fitting in really well. We have all always divided and conquered. We are just continuing that model that was set up under John. We were kind of a united force, I don’t think it has been that big of a shift.”

DeSimone and her staff are determined to keep the program on the winning track that saw it go 14-6 last winter, capturing the Prep state title and advancing to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) state final in the process.

“We are really happy with how we ended the season last year and we want to keep building on that success,” said DeSimone. “It was really fun. We are really happy about how we built the program and the success we have had over the last few years. The returning players are definitely excited to get back to competing against those teams we played last year and what we did. We are well-positioned to do that again.”

The dynamic one-two punch at forward of sophomore Eibhleann Knox (14 goals, 11 assists in 2021-22) and junior captain Logan Harrison (18 goals, 13 assists) should help the Panthers be very competitive this winter.

“Eibhleann is looking great, she had two goals yesterday and Logan had a hat trick in our scrimmage,” said DeSimone. “They are playing really well together. They are playing club hockey together so personally they are getting closer as well.”

The pair of junior standout forwards Emily McCann (11 goals, 8 assists) and Lily Ryan (4 goals, 12 assists) figure to provide plenty of production as well.

“We always love to support her in her running, that is her main sport,” said DeSimone of McCann, a cross country star who placed first at the XC Fall Classic and took second in the Prep B state meet, helping the Panthers win the team title. “She is so dedicated to hockey and is just a good team player. She always works so hard. We are excited to have her back, we know to give her some space to shift gears. She is certainly up and running. Lily is great. She has so much energy, she works so hard every single shift. As she grows into her role and now as an upperclassman, I am really excited about what we are going to see from her this year and next.”

DeSimone is excited to see what senior assistant captain Claire Meehan (11 goals, 8 assists) and sophomore Grace Ulrich (1 assist) do this winter.

“Claire is looking great, she works so hard as a center,” said DeSimone, who will also be using freshman Brynn Dandy at forward. “She really is able to transition offensively and defensively. She is a really stable player for us. Grace is a goalie as well but she will be mostly playing out for us this year. She was hurt last year so we are excited to have her back at full speed.”

At defenseman, seniors Nora Appleby (2 goals, 4 assists) and Lauren Chase (11 goals, 16 assists), will be leading the way.

“I am really happy with Nora’s growth in the last couple of years; she has really stood out as a leader on the team and is actually one of our captains this year,” said DiSimone, noting that junior Isabel Cook, sophomore Aerin Bruno and freshman Mariana Lee will also be seeing time on the blue line.

“We will be looking for her and Lauren to lead the way in the defensive end. We benefit from Lauren rushing the puck as well and always being a consistently strong defensive player.”

Junior transfer Brigid Milligan is bringing some strong play at goalie to the program.

“Brigid has really just jumped right in and had a really good transition,” said DeSimone. “She has been strong in practice, we are looking forward to having her.”

With PDS hosting Cranford on December 9 in its season opener, DeSimone believes her squad has the potential to be very strong.

“We need to work on scoring chances, that has always been something we need to improve on,” said DeSimone. “That is something we will really look at and look to work on. I think it is also really making sure that we are setting the competition level for every game. There is such a variation in the teams that we play so we need to make sure that we are working hard every game and that we are getting something out of every one of those games.”