December 8, 2021

DREAM SEASON: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Sophia Lis displays her skills in a game this fall. Senior striker Lis made history in her final PHS campaign, scoring 38 goals, giving her the second highest single-season total in CVC history behind the 65 scored by Steinert’s Lisa Gmitter in 1982. The heroics of Lehigh-bound Lis helped Princeton go 21-3 and advance to the state Group 3 final for the first time in program history. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Sophia Lis didn’t want her final season on the Princeton High girls’ soccer team to end.

“I want to stay on this team for as long as possible,” said senior star striker and Lehigh-bound Lis. “It has been so great, it has been such a fun year.”

A great team chemistry helped make the team so fun. “We have really been working in practices a lot,” said Lis.

“I feel like we have the chemistry off the field, that is really showing on the field. We have done so many dinners. Everyone is such great friends, we all want each other to score.”

While PHS boasted good scoring balance, Lis emerged at the go-to finisher for the team, tallying 11 goals and six assists in the first seven games of the seasons as the Tigers got off to a 7-0 start.

“I am definitely trying to work on my shot accuracy but also with me getting more shots, I want to make sure that my team does the same,” said Lis.

“We work well as a unit to make sure to get the final product no matter what.”

Lis kept burying shots as PHS worked really well as a unit, going 13-1 in regular season play and then advancing to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals where it fell for a second time to rival Hopewell Valley.

Moving on to the state tournament, Lis took her game to new heights, tallying two goals in a 6-0 win over WW/P-North in the opening round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 3 sectional. In the quarterfinals, she tallied the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Robbinsville and then got two goals in a 3-1 win over Colts Neck in the semis. In round three with HoVal in the sectional final, Lis tallied both goals in a sweet 2-0 triumph. more

STEADY HAHN: Hun School girls’ basketball player Kiera Hahn dribbles the ball last weekend at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament. Senior guard Hahn helped Hun go 1-2 at the event as the Raiders took fourth place. In upcoming action, Hun, now 2-2, plays at Agnes Irwin (Pa.) on December 10 and at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on December 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Hun School girls’ basketball team adding some talented newcomers to a group of solid returners, it wouldn’t be surprising if it took a while for the squad to develop into a cohesive unit.

Instead, the group has come together in a matter of weeks. “Their personalities are great, they are just a lot of fun to be around,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup, who led Hun to a 5-3 record last winter in a campaign abbreviated by COVID-19 concerns.

“It makes it a lot better when everybody is happy, having fun, competing and learning.”

Last weekend, Hun competed hard at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament, topping St. James (Md.) 66-15 on Friday before losing 68-32 to Séminaire Saint-François (Quebec) on Saturday and falling 63-51 to Pennington on Sunday to take fourth place at the event.

Holup is happy to have post-graduate point guard Erin Maguire join the squad this year, the third sister from the Irish clan to play for the program.

“They are a great family and we are very excited to continue our relationship with the family,” said Holup of Maguire, who scored 21 points and had nine rebounds in the loss to Pennington.

“She can penetrate, she handles the ball. She is extremely unselfish, she will be able to shoot from the perimeter. She has quick hands and quick feet. She is a great leader.” more

CHASING SUCCESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Lauren Chase, right, goes after the puck in a game last season. Junior defenseman Chase will be spearheading things along the blue line for the Panthers this winter. Chase picked up an assist as PDS defeated Randolph 4-2 in its season opener last Wednesday. The Panthers host Westfield on December 8 before playing at Oak Knoll on December 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team doesn’t boast a big group of veteran performers, it is still bringing plenty of optimism into the 2021-22 season.

“Our numbers are really strong this year, there continues to be a positive vibe around the team to join the program,” said PDS head coach John Ritchie, who guided PDS to a 5-0-1 record last winter in a season abbreviated by COVID-19 concerns.

“We are definitely a younger team but they definitely all have high expectations for themselves.”

Ritchie has high hopes for junior goalie Abigail Ashman, who is assuming the starting role after the graduation of star net minder Jillian Wexler.

“Abby is going to take over for Jillian,” said Ritchie, noting that freshman Grace Ulrich will serve as a backup.

“Not having Jillian is a huge loss for us but Abby is up to the task. Abby is probably going play 70-80 percent of the games this year. Grace is interesting because she is a good goalie but she is a very good player too. She is going to be doing a little bit of double duty for us.”

Along the blue line, defensemen junior Lauren Chase, sophomore Isabel Cook, and senior Natalie Celso will lead the way. more

EMERGING FORCE: Wilberforce School girls’ cross country runner Gwen Mersereau displays her form in a race this year. Freshman Mersereau emerged as the leader of the pack for Wilberforce this fall. She placed fourth individually in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Girls’ Non-Public B Group championship meet to help Wilberforce win the team title, the first in program history. She went on to take 94th in the Meet of Champions as the Wolverines took 18th in the team standings. (Photo provided by Lois Szeliga)

By Bill Alden

While the Wilberforce School only has about 80 students in its upper school, five stellar runners on its girls’ cross country team were able to make some big noise this fall.

After finishing sixth in the team standings at the Mercer County Championship meet in late October at Washington Crossing Park and then placing first at Bob Kiessling Invitational in Logan Township, the girls’ squad made school history by winning the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B Group championship meet on November 13. The Wolverines went on to place 18th at the Meet of Champions a week later.

Wilberforce head coach Lois Szeliga sensed that her squad was on track for a big fall after its performance at the county meet as it held its own against some much larger schools.

“When you have one through five within two minutes of each other and that is what we had been doing, you really have a chance at winning these bigger meets,” said Szeliga.

“We have been finishing 1:30 apart. In the Group meet, it was around 2:01. That is really what you need.”

At the Group meet, freshman Gwen Mersereau led the way for the Wolverines, taking fourth individually, covering the 5,000-meter course at Holmdel Park in a time of 21:09. Classmate Adeline Edwards was right behind her in fifth with a time of 21:11. Junior Sophia Park took eighth in 21:35 while senior Annie Whitman came in 11th in 22:23 and senior Laura Prothero finished 18th in 23:10. In the team standings, Wilberforce had a winning score of 45, just six points better than runner-up and perennial power Villa Walsh. more

December 1, 2021

HAN SOLO: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Han Shin gets ready to fire the puck up the ice in a game last winter. Sophomore defenseman Shin figures to be a key performer for PDS this winter. The Panthers, who open their 2021-22 season by falling 3-2 to Pope John, play the Hun School on December 1 at the Ice Land Rink and then host St. Augustine on December 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The 2021-22 season will mark the dawn of a new era for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team.

While the storied program has established itself as a traditional power, winning state Prep and county titles and posting some memorable victories over Mid-Atlantic Hockey League foes like Lawrenceville and Hun, it is branching out this winter to join the Gordon Conference and compete in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) state Non-Public tournament for the first time.

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli is fired up about the program’s new path.

“I feel like the expectation and hope that it will be a normal, uninterrupted season — it lends itself right from the get-go to get really excited about being back on the ice,” said Bertoli, who guided his team to a 4-1-1 record last year in an abbreviated season.

“Every game we are going to play this year is a league game or a conference game. That is exciting.”

The Gordon Conference which includes such formidable foes as Delbarton, Don Bosco, Bergen Catholic, and Seton Hall Prep, among
others, will provide some stern tests for the Panthers.

“Personally I think it is awesome, it is a perfect fit for us,” said Bertoli, whose team fell 3-2 to Pope John in its Gordon debut last Monday. more

BREAKING THE ICE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Nick Dimatos skates in a 2019 game. Post-graduate defenseman and co-captain Dimatos will be leading the blue line unit for the Raiders this winter. Last weekend, Hun started its season by going 3-1 in the Shady Side Academy Thanksgiving Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Princeton Day School on December 1 and St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.) on December 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Things were pretty bleak last winter for the Hun School boys’ hockey team as it only got to play three games due to COVID-19 concerns.

“There was a lot of anticipation for last year; you have these little windows where you can be pretty competitive and I think last year seemed like the pinnacle of one,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally.

“Everybody was very excited to play and then we didn’t; the air came out.”

Understandably, the Hun squad was very excited to start the 2021-22 season by heading to Pittsburgh, Pa., last weekend to compete in the Shady Side Academy Thanksgiving Classic where it played more games in three days than it did all season, going 3-1 at the event.

“Once we got on the ice here this season, the excitement was very high,” said McNally.

“People started looking around, saying wait a minute, we are going to be pretty good. The whole point of doing this tournament was to feel like we were hitting the ground rolling in December instead of it taking a couple weeks for you to get going. That is what we got out of it.”

After losing 5-2 to host Shady Side last Friday to open the season, Hun rebounded with a 7-2 win over the Blyth Academy (Ontario). more

ON GUARD: Hun School boys’ basketball player Dan Vessey, right, guards a foe in a 2019 game. Senior guard Vessey is looking to have a big final campaign at Hun. The Raiders were scheduled to tip off their 2021-22 season by hosting St. Benedict’s on November 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

A year ago, the Hun School boys’ basketball team started its preseason training outdoors on the school’s tennis courts as it wasn’t allowed to practice in the gym due to COVID-19 concerns.

As Hun got ready to tip-off its 2021-22 campaign by playing powerhouse St. Benedict’s on November 30, the Raider players were savoring the chance to be going through their paces inside the Shipley Pavilion.

“I think any way you cut it, we are so much further along than we were last year,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone who guided the Raiders to an 8-2 record in their abbreviated 2021 campaign.

“It is the thrill of playing every day, it has been great, the guys are really excited, as am I.”

Senior guard Jack Scott, who is headed to Princeton University next year to follow in the footsteps of his father, Joe Scott, a former hoops star and coach for the Tigers, is primed for a great season.

“Jack formally committed to the process at Princeton; he had a really big summer,” said Stone.

“It is a little bit of everything, he sees the floor really well, he is a really good passer. He has continued to grow, he is 6’5 now so just his size as a guard is a tremendous asset at both ends of the floor. Offensively, he has the ability to finish around the rim. Defensively, he can guard bigger players and guards.” more

WASHINGTON CROSSING: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Leila Washington brings the ball upcourt in a game last season. Sophomore guard Washington figures to emerge as a star for Stuart this winter. The Tartans were slated to start their 2021-22 campaign by hosting Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on November 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Over the last few seasons, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team featured a formidable inside-outside punch.

With the pair of Ariel Jenkins and Laila Fair dominating in the paint and guards Nia Melvin and Aleah James starring on the perimeter, Stuart won three state Prep B titles from 2018-20 and advanced to the Mercer County Tournament final in 2020 for the first time in program history.

With that quartet having graduated and Jenkins playing at Georgetown, Fair at St. Joseph’s, James at LIU, and Melvin opting not to play at the college level despite a number of offers, the Tartans will have a radically different look this winter.

“Everyone is excited, we have a lot of new faces,” said Stuart head coach Justin Leith, who guided Stuart to a 7-6 record last winter in an abbreviated season.
“W
e have either inexperience or freshmen. It has been fun though as a coach, you are coaching different things, going back to more basic stuff. Even in a short amount of time, I am seeing them reaping the benefits of repetition. They are starting to get an understanding of the game which is exciting.”

As a result of the graduation losses, the Tartans will be employing an up-tempo style featuring interchangeable parts.

“We are tiny, we don’t have a backcourt or a frontcourt, we are just guards,” said Leith, who also lost valuable performers Catherine Martin and Molly Lagay to graduation. more

November 24, 2021

PEAKS AND A VALLEY: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Megan Rougas, center, battles for the ball in a game this season. Last Sunday, senior star Rougas and PHS made the program’s first-ever state final appearance and fell just short of the crown as they lost 2-1 in overtime to Wayne Valley. The Tigers finished the fall with a final record of 21-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When it was over, Megan Rougas embraced Sophia Lis on the field as they consoled each other.

Although the two senior stars for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team were upset in the wake of the squad falling 2-1 in overtime to Wayne Valley in the state Group 3 final last Sunday afternoon at Kean University, that sadness couldn’t take away from what the Tigers accomplished this fall.

Utilizing a blend of skill and togetherness, PHS enjoyed a dream season this fall, advancing to the state final for the first time in program history and ending the campaign with a 21-3 record.

While her eyes were reddened from tears, Rougas managed a smile in reflecting on how the fall unfolded for the Tigers.

“Unexpected is the word I would use,” said standout midfielder and co-captain Rougas.

“I have seen so much talent pass through this school, with players like my sister (Lauren), and Sophia’s sisters (Taylor, Devon). I think we were the underdogs this year. We took everything we could. We took giant steps, we did exactly what we needed to do to get to where we needed to be. We made it to the top, somehow, some way. I could not be prouder of these girls.”

The Tigers expected a battle from Wayne Valley, the Passaic County champions, who entered the final at 21-3 and riding a 16-game winning streak.

“We knew coming in that this was going to be a really tough game,” said Rougas. more

SO BRILLIANT: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Sophia Lis heads to goal in state tournament action. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Lis helped fuel an unprecedented postseason run for PHS as it reached the state final for the first time in program history. Lis tallied nine goals in the squad’s postseason run, including the winning goals in the sectional quarterfinal, semis, and final and Group 3 semis. She tallied the one goal for the Tigers in a2-1 overtime defeat to Wayne Valley in the Group 3 final in Sunday, giving her 38 for the season, the second highest single-season total in CVC history behind the 65 scored by Steinert’s Lisa Gmitter in 1982. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Sophia Lis appeared exhausted as the Princeton High girls’ soccer team prepared to go into overtime against Lacey Township in the state Group 3 semis last Wednesday.

As the PHS players stood in a huddle around Tiger head coach Dave Kosa getting their final instructions before starting the extra session as the foes had played to a scoreless stalemate, a red-faced senior star forward Lis sat on the bench, gulping Gatorade and catching her breath.

Having battled a pesky Lacey defense on its pockmarked grass field as she made run after run to goal, Lis had plenty of reason to be spent.

“I think the grass has a really bad effect on my legs, I have always found that,” said Lis.

“But the playing field is even for everybody. It was hard for me to get over that but this is what we have worked so hard for the whole season so I might as well give it everything I have got this game and see how it plays out.”

Minutes into OT, Lis gave PHS the win, making a run down the flank and dipping the ball over the Lacey goalie.

“I won the ball and I just turned and dribbled down the sideline,” said Lis, recalling the winning tally.

“I have been finding this whole season, I have been doing a lot of sideline work. So using my speed I just ran to the corner and took a shot to see if maybe a rebound could be found or it could find the back of the net. I was fortunate that this time, it did.”

Seconds later, Lis was mobbed by her teammates as they sprinted across the field to hug her. more

GUTTING IT OUT: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Kento Nakaya heads to the finish line at the Mercer County championship meet in late October. Last Saturday, senior Nakaya helped PHS place sixth at the Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Kento Nakaya’s third and final season on the Princeton High boys’ cross country team has gone better than he could have dreamed.

The PHS senior produced arguably the best race of his career at the perfect time as the Tigers placed sixth at the Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park on Saturday in a meet won by Union Catholic. The finish ties the third-best placing in PHS boys’ history. The 2016 team won MOC, and the 2017 team placed fourth, while the 1974 Tiger boys also placed sixth.

“As a PHS cross country team, we didn’t qualify for Meet of Champions for three years,” said Nakaya, who was the Little Tigers’ third finisher Saturday.

“I’ve never qualified to Meet of Champs in my life. I wasn’t expecting a lot from the meet. I was very surprised to be on the podium getting sixth place, and very happy to be there.”

Nakaya is one of two seniors in the PHS boys’ top seven. They will be without their other senior, Addison Motto, when the Tigers compete at the Nike Regionals in Bowdoin Park, N.Y., on November 27 as a springboard to a potential nationals spot next year. Nationals are not being run this season, and it will be the final race for Nakaya, who expects to return to his native Japan for college following graduation.

“I really want to thank my teammates for helping make my senior year great,” said Nakaya, who moved from Japan to Princeton in sixth grade. “I obviously had a lot of fun with working out with them and getting sixth at the Meet of Champs.”

The PHS girls’ squad also competed at the Meet of Champions. It’s the only time other than 1985 that both Princeton teams reached the Meet of Champions together. In 1985, it was Eva Klohnen in 25th individually who paced the PHS girls to a ninth-place team finish while Nathaniel McVey-Finney who took 41st to lead the Tiger boys to 12th place. more

November 17, 2021

STANDING TALL: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Sophia Lis, left, celebrates after scoring a goal against Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final last Friday. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Lis scored two goals in the contest as top-seeded PHS prevailed 2-0 over the second-seeded Bulldogs. The Tigers, who improved to 20-2 with the triumph, will now play at South champion Lacey (15-6-1) in the Group 3 semis on November 17 with the victor advancing to the state Group 3 final on November 21 at Kean University. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, the third time proved to be the charm as it hosted Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final last Friday.

With PHS having lost 3-2 to HoVal in the regular season and then dropping a 3-1 decision in the Mercer County Tournament semis, the top-seeded Tigers turned the tables on the second-seeded Bulldogs, winning 2-0 in the sectional final.

PHS, which improved to 20-2 with the triumph, now play at South champion Lacey (15-6-1) in the Group 3 semis on November 17 with the victor advancing to the state Group 3 final on November 21 at Kean University.

Coming into round three with Hopewell, Tiger head coach Dave Kosa fine-tuned his game plan.

“We were definitely trying to be the aggressor and get on the attack first,” said Kosa, who is in his first season guiding the program.

“We taped the first two games; it was learning what we did not so good and just trying to take away some of the things that they do well. We limited their corners, we didn’t let them behind us. They got behind us in the first two games and in this case they didn’t so that took away a lot of their set pieces and a lot of their corner kicks. Second of all, we were looking to win all of the 50/50 balls. We scouted them against Brick in the sectional semis and Brick controlled most of the play. They were all over them too, they were really, really aggressive, marking closely. We took that and used that to our advantage.” more

FAST COMPANY: Members of the Princeton High boys’ cross country team take off at the start of the Mercer County championship meet last month at Washington Crossing Park. Last Saturday, PHS placed fourth at the state Group 4 championship meet at Holmdel Park. The Tigers figure to be back at Holmdel on November 20 for the Meet of Champions as they should make the meet as a wild card entry after three state Group races remaining were to be completed on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Earlier this month, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team found itself in a battle with Manalapan High for first place at Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet.

PHS prevailed in the November 13 competition at Thompson Park, scoring 82 points to edge Manalapan by two points to win the title.

Last Saturday at Holmdel Park in the state Group 4 championship meet, the two squads were again matching each other stride for stride but this time the prize was third place.

While PHS junior Andrew Kenny had a big day, taking eighth individually in a time of 16:15 over the famed 5,000-meter course, it was not enough as Manalapan came in at 134 to take third with the Tigers posting a score of 149 to grab fourth. Powerhouse Ridge took first at 91 with Westfield coming in second with a score of 99.

The next PHS finisher was junior Marty Brophy who took 42nd in 17:08 with junior Zachary Deng finishing 46th in 17:11, senior Addison Motto coming in 47th 17:13, and sophomore Maxwell Dunlap placing 55th in 17:21.

As for the PHS girls, junior star Robin Roth continued her late surge. After taking second individually at the Mercer County Championships and fifth at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet, Roth placed 17th overall at the Group meet, posting a time of 20:06. more

FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player William Vasquez battles for the ball in the South Jersey Non-Public B sectional. Senior Vasquez scored two goals to help seventh-seeded PDS defeat fifth-seeded Ranney School 3-1 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) South Jersey Non-Public B sectional last Thursday. On Sunday, Vasquez and the Panthers fell just short of a state title as they lost 3-1 to Gill St. Bernard’s in the Non-Public B state final to end the fall with a 12-12 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In its run to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) South Jersey Non-Public B sectional title, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team relished its role as road warriors.

Seventh-seeded PDS won 3-1 at second-seeded Holy Cross Prep in the sectional quarterfinal on November 4, 3-2 at sixth-seeded Bishop Eustace in the semis on November 8, and then prevailed 3-1 at fifth-seeded Ranney School in the sectional final last Thursday.

But facing powerful Gill St. Bernard’s in the Non-Public B state final at the spacious Kean University field last Sunday, the Panthers found themselves at a disadvantage far from home.

“In our sectional run we played on relatively small fields,” said PDS first-year head coach Brian Thomsen.

“We were able to withstand pressure, able to handle pressure better, able to play out quickly and counterattack quickly on those fields. That Gill team was just able to spread us out more than we have been used to in the past four weeks. We haven’t seen a team like that in terms of the quality of player since Hopewell Valley three weeks ago. We were playing against a true possession-oriented team that worked on that all year.”

Despite chasing Gill all over the field, the Panthers only trailed 1-0 at halftime. After intermission, the Knights scored two goals to take a 3-0 lead and put the game out of reach. PDS did answer back with a late goal by senior star Milan Shah to make it a 3-1 final. more

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. more

November 10, 2021

ADDING UP TO A TITLE: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Addison Motto heads to the finish line at the Central Jersey Group 4 championship Saturday at Thompson Park. Senior Motto placed 12th individually to help PHS win the team title at the meet as it had a score of 82 to edge runner-up Manalapan by two points. The Tigers are next in action when they compete in the Group 4 state championship meet at Holmdel Park on November 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Addison Motto was a bit taken aback after helping the Princeton High boys’ cross country team edge Manalapan for the Central Jersey Group 4 championship last Saturday at Thompson Park.

“It feels amazing,” said PHS senior Motto. “I don’t think anyone on our team thought we’d make it this far and win sectionals at the beginning of the year. It’s really shocking. It feels great.”

The win came two weeks after a heartbreaking one-point loss to WW/P-North for the Mercer County championship meet. Had any of Princeton’s top five finishers in that race moved up one spot, the Tigers would have won. They grasped the importance of each point, and pulled out an 82-84 win over Manalapan for the sectional title.

“We knew that we had a shot,” said Motto. “We knew that we could beat Manalapan. We knew we could put five guys in before their fifth guy. We knew we’d have to run as a team, not just individually, which we were able to execute definitely. We knew people would have to step up and have some of their best races of the season. The guys stepped up, so that was great.”

PHS used a tight pack to take the title even without a runner in the top 10 individually. Junior Andrew Kenny placed 11th individually in 16:25 over the 5,000-meter course, Motto took 12th in a personal-record 16:32, junior Marty Brophy finished 16th in 16:44 and junior Zachary Deng came in 17th in 16:47. When senior Kento Nakaya surged in with a big move over the final quarter-mile to finish 26th in 17:03, it sealed the Tigers’ win. Sophomore Max Dunlap was 35th in 17:15 while junior Charles Howes took 42nd in 17:30. more

COMING UP BIG: Princeton High girls’ soccer goalie Moji Ayodele makes a save in recent action. Last Friday, senior star Ayodele made 12 saves to help top-seeded PHS edge ninth-seeded Robbinsville 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional quarterfinals. The Tigers were slated to host fourth-seeded Colts Neck in the sectional semis on November 9 with the victor advancing to the final on November 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Moji Ayodele wasn’t quite herself last fall as she played for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, hampered by injury and illness.

Coming into this fall, senior goalie Ayodele was determined to be at full strength for her final campaign for PHS.

“I worked a lot this summer on coming back strong,” said Ayodele.

“I wouldn’t say I had much of a high school season last year with COVID.”

That work paid off as Ayodele got off to a strong start this fall, posting six shutouts as the Tigers produced a 7-0 start.

“I think since I have had this full season, I have been able to get back on track,” said Ayodele.

Last Friday, Ayodele helped keep PHS on track for a sectional title, making 12 saves to help the top-seeded Tigers edge ninth-seeded Robbinsville 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional quarterfinals and improve to 18-2.

PHS got the margin of victory on a goal by senior star Sophia Lis with 2:07 left in regulation and were slated to host fourth-seeded Colts Neck in the sectional semis on November 9 with the victor advancing to the final on November 12.

Even though the Tigers had defeated Robbinsville 5-0 in the season opener, Ayodele knew things were going to be a lot tougher in the rematch.

“We played them in our first game and they were missing a lot of people,” said Ayodele. more

LIFTING THEIR SPIRITS: Members of the Hun School girls’ soccer team celebrate last Wednesday after they edged perennial power Pennington School 4-3 in overtime in the state Prep A title game. Top-seeded Hun rallied from a late 3-2 deficit to pull out the win over second-seeded Pennington to earn the program’s first Prep A crown since 2014. The Raiders, who also won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title, ended the season with a 12-5-2 record, a marked improvement from the 0-4-1 record they posted in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. (Photo by Jamie McKee/The Hun School)

By Bill Alden

Riley Hayes had a shot to win a championship for the Hun School girls’ soccer team and she wasn’t about to squander it.

With Hun tied 3-3 with perennial power Pennington in the state Prep A championship game after regulation, seconds into overtime junior midfielder Hayes found the ball on her foot in front of the goal.

“I saw it was coming through and I knew I had the ability so it was just take it and shoot it,” said junior midfielder Hayes.

“I knew the opportunity was there and I took it, As long as you have confidence, that’s all it is.”

Hayes slotted the ball into the back of the net to give Hun a 4-3 win and the title, setting off a riotous celebration as student fans from the throng on hand stormed onto the field and the Hun football team bolted over from practice en masse to join in the fun.

It marked the first Prep A title for the team since it defeated Pennington in the championship game seven years ago. more

By Bill Alden

Aden Spektor joined his Hun School boys’ soccer teammates in jumping up and down in unison in the pregame huddle last Friday as they got pumped up before hosting Lawrenceville in their season finale.

With 4:41 left in the contest, the Hun players were jumping all over Spektor in one corner of the field after he scored a goal to put Hun up 3-1 and close the deal as the Raiders went on to a 4-1 victory and ended the fall with a 10-7 record.

For senior forward Spektor, emotions were running high as the program held its Senior Day ceremony.

“It was crazy, playing for four years and this is my last game ever,” said Spektor. “I was just really excited.”

Hun didn’t play its best early on, controlling possession but not cashing in as the rivals were knotted in a 0-0 draw through the first 71 minutes of the contest.

Tyler Stark broke the stalemate, scoring with 8:19 left to put Hun up 1-0 and Conor Frykholm found the back of the net 1:08 later as the Raiders doubled their lead.

“I knew it was coming, it has been the same thing for every other game,” said Spektor of the two-goal outburst.

“We have really good build up and it is going to come a little bit toward the end. You want to feel comfortable going into the final minutes of the game. The two goals got the momentum.” more

STEPPING UP: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Milan Shah controls the ball in a game earlier this fall. Last Thursday, senior star Shah tallied two goals to help seventh-seeded PDS defeat second-seeded Holy Cross Prep 3-2 South Jersey Non-Public B sectional quarterfinals. On Monday, Shah got two assists to help the Panthers edge sixth-seeded Bishop Eustace 3-2 in the sectional semis. PDS, now 11-11, will play at fifth-seeded Ranney School (11-4-1) on November 11 in the sectional final with the victor advancing to the Non-Public B state final on November 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although it’s the first-ever trip to the South Jersey Non-Public B sectional for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer program, Brian Thomsen believed his squad could make a big run in the tourney.

“Knowing who is in our sectional for the state tournament, in the back of my mind, I always kind of knew this was the tournament for this group to be successful,” said PDS first-year head coach Thomsen.

“I know the section pretty well and it is a lot of hardworking guys that will make your life miserable on the physical side of the game. So if you are not ready to go battle with your teammates, it is going to be a long day.”

Displaying a battling spirit, seventh-seeded PDS has enjoyed great success in the sectional, knocking off 10th-seeded Gloucester Catholic 8-0 in a first round contest on November 1, upsetting second-seeded Holy Cross Prep 3-1 last Thursday in the quarters, and then edging sixth-seeded Bishop Eustace 3-2 in the semis last Monday.

The Panthers, now 11-11, will play at fifth-seeded Ranney School (11-4-1) on November 11 in the sectional final with the victor advancing to the Non-Public B state final on November 14 at Kean University.

In Thomsen’s view, a 2-1 win over Spotswood on October 28 helped prepare PDS for the sectional.

“I think the key was that we picked up a game against Spotswood the week before,” said Thomsen. more

November 3, 2021

PASSING LANE: Princeton High field hockey player Hannah Christopher sends the ball upfield last Thursday as fifth-seeded PHS hosted 12th-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the first round of the North Jersey Group 4 sectional. Junior forward Christopher picked up an assist on the game-winning goal by Mia Ramirez as the Tigers prevailed 3-2. PHS, who improved to 15-1 with the victory, was slated to play at fourth-seeded Montclair in the sectional quarterfinals on November 2 with the victor advancing to the semis on November 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton High field hockey team locked in a 2-2 tie with Scotch Plains-Fanwood last Thursday afternoon in the first round of the North Jersey Group 4 sectional, Hannah Christopher saw an opening.

“I called for a cross, it is really important to communicate, it is something we did really well at the end,” said PHS junior forward Christopher.

“I got it across and to have Mia [Ramirez] finish that was really awesome. Mia had a great tip, it was perfect timing.”

The goal by Ramirez on the feed from Christopher proved to be the difference as fifth-seeded PHS prevailed 3-2 over the 12th-seeded Raiders, improving to 15-1 and advancing to the sectional quarters where they are slated to play at fourth-seeded Montclair on November 2.

“I think we really picked it up at the end,” said Christopher. “We really came together at the end.”

In the early stages of the contest, PHS struggled to get through the Scotch Plains back line.

“Their defense was definitely a challenge, they had a talented defensive line and their goalie (Emilia Saccento) was fantastic,” said Christopher.

“It was really impressive that she was able to stop some of Liv’s (Olivia Weir) balls.” more

SETTING UP: Princeton High girls’ volleyball player Lois Matsukawa hits the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, freshman Matsukawa starred as fifth-seeded PHS defeated 12th-seeded Montgomery 2-0 (27-25, 25-18) in the first round of the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional. Matsukawa contributed four digs, 14 assists, and 11 service points in the win. The Tigers, now 15-6, play at fourth-seeded Brick Memorial in the sectional quarterfinals on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team, hosting Montgomery last Friday in the first round of the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional was a chance for atonement.

In mid-October, PHS suffered a disappointing defeat to their neighbors from Somerset County, falling 2-0 (25-19, 25-19).

“The day before at practice, we were talking that this was a redemption match,” said Tiger head coach Patty Manhart.

“We were missing a starter the first time we played them. I made some rotation changes to fill in for that spot that didn’t work out.”

In the match on Friday, things weren’t working out for fifth-seeded PHS in the early stages as it faced an eight-point deficit midway through the first set against the 12th-seeded Cougars. The Tigers, though, got rolling and won the set 27-25 and then took the second set 25-18 to win the match. PHS improved to 15-6 with the win, and play at fourth-seeded Brick Memorial in the sectional quarterfinals on November 3.

“The swing that let us down was serve receive, just not being able to get out of one rotation against a tough server from Montgomery,” said Manhart.

“We were able to flip the tide and go on a service run on our own. Lois Mastukawa, our freshman setter, did a great job and that whole momentum going into the second game was helpful for us. You could tell Montgomery was taken out of it after they lost such a big lead. We were able to capitalize on that in set two.” more

UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Hun School football players David Siegel, right, and Jake Lezzer celebrate after a touchdown last Saturday at Peddie. Hun rolled to a 56-21 win over the Falcons to improve to 7-0. The Raiders will look to remain undefeated when they host St. Frances Academy (Md.) on November 6 as the program celebrates its Senior Day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

David Siegel warmed up to his new Hun School football team quickly.

The postgraduate came down twice for workouts over the summer from his New Canaan, Conn., home. “Instantly I felt part of a family,” said Siegel. “That’s the easiest way to put it. I came down and I had fun with the guys.”

On one particularly memorable day, Hun head coach Todd Smith moved his team inside the gym to escape a downpour. They played knockout and Siegel was a finalist in one game.

“Everyone was chanting my name,” said Siegel. “And I was this new kid who just met everyone. It made me realize how special of a place Hun is.”

Even before he joined the team, Siegel was already a name to the Hun family. The right tackle’s father, Robert, was a 1988 graduate of Hun who was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, one of the few occasions that brought David to the campus before he arrived this fall.

“My dad gave me free rein of the whole process,” said Siegel.

“Coach Smith did reach out. I knew my dad went there and I was choosing between a few schools. After I talked to Coach Smith a lot, I just felt the most comfortable there, but my dad never put any pressure on me to go to The Hun School. Obviously he was excited when I did go there and when I got there the only number available to me was his old number [71]. He was really happy that I did choose The Hun School.”

The current Hun No. 71 made his dad happy again as he helped the Raiders improve to 7-0 with a 56-21 win at Peddie on Saturday. Hun finishes first in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL), and avenged a loss to Peddie in 2019 as well as another one that was a bit more personal to Siegel. more

RISING SPEKTOR: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Spektor boots the ball in recent action. Last Monday, Spektor helped Hun defeat Lawrenceville 2-1 to improve to 11-4-2. Top-seeded Hun hosts second-seeded Pennington (15-2-2) in the state Prep A title game on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In late September, the Hun School girls’ soccer team turned a lot of heads when it edged perennial power Pennington 1-0.

Gaining confidence from its first victory over its nemesis since 2014 when it topped Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A title game, Hun emerged as one of the top sides in the area.

The Raiders advanced to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals where they suffered a tough 1-0 loss in overtime to Princeton High on October 23. Four days later, Hun bounced back from that setback, defeating Kent Place 1-0 in the state Prep A semifinals.

As a result, top-seeded Hun earned a rematch with second-seeded Pennington and will host its rival in the Prep A final on November 3.

“We love the competitive challenge of playing the best teams,” said Hun head coach Jenn Barrett.

“Obviously they have improved over the season and they have done very, very well. We want to play them, we look forward to playing them, we want to prove that our win was solid, and we can do it again.”

Over the last 10 days, Hun has faced plenty of challenges, In addition to the games against PHS and Kent Place, the Raiders lost 1-0 to Delaware Valley on October 28, tied the Peddie School 2-2 last Saturday, and then edged the Lawrenceville School 2-1 last Monday. more

FORD TOUGH: Stuart Country Day School field hockey goalie Audrey Blandford kicks away a shot in a game this season. Last Wednesday, senior star Blandford made eight saves in a losing cause as top-seeded Stuart fell 1-0 to second-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy in the state Prep B title game. The Tartans finished the fall with a 11-4-2 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Audrey Blandford was under fire as the top-seeded Stuart Country Day School field hockey team hosted second-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA) in the state Prep B title game last Wednesday.

With MKA controlling possession in the first half and generating a number of scoring opportunities, Stuart senior goalie Blandford had to keep on her toes.

“They passed really well and really fast,” said Blandford. “They had their sticks down.”

After MKA broke through with a goal in the second quarter, Blandford and the Stuart defense held the fort from there, but the Tartans couldn’t find the back of the cage as they fell 1-0 and ended the  season with a final record of 11-4-2.

“We played so well today,” said Blandford, who made eight saves in the contest. “I was getting into a rhythm.”

In the second half, Stuart tried to get into a rhythm, getting plenty of possession in the third quarter. In the waning moments of the contest, the Tartans had MKA on its heels, generating two corners and nearly scoring.

“We really kept pushing the right sideline and we kept getting so close every time,” said Blandford. more