GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Princeton University women’s soccer goalie Grace Barbara whips the ball upfield in a game this fall. Senior star and former Princeton Day School standout Barbara helped Princeton go 15-3-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy League as the Tigers advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
After the Ivy League canceled competition for the 2020 fall season and the 2020-21 winter campaign due to COVID-19 concerns, Princeton University athletes got some limited opportunities to get back in action this spring.
Princeton rowers were thrilled to get the chance to row in a regatta against boats from Temple and Drexel in Philadelphia on April 25, their first racing since spring of 2019 and the first competition for Tiger athletics in 407 days. The women’s lightweight varsity 8 went on to make history, winning the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) grand final, its first national title since 2003. On the track, star thrower Obi Amaechi punctuated her stellar career by finishing 13th in the discus in the NCAA championships, earning second-team All-American honors.
It was full speed ahead in the fall for Princeton athletes and several teams produced memorable campaigns. Tiger football went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy to share the league crown with Dartmouth. Overcoming a shaky start, men’s soccer caught fire down the stretch, going 7-0 in Ivy play to win the league crown. Led by Australian Olympian steeplechaser Ed Trippas, men’s cross country won the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and went on to place first at the NCCA Mid-Atlantic regional. Men’s water polo won the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) tournament and topped Fordham 17-8 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Although women’s soccer didn’t win the Ivy title, it went 15-3-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton posted a 2-0 win over visiting Vermont in the first round of the NCAAs before falling 3-2 in overtime to TCU in the round of 32.
While local high school teams did have a winter season, it was abbreviated and split into segments by sport. That limited campaign, though, didn’t prevent some highlight moments. Princeton High senior Chloe Ayres made history, earning her third straight state title, prevailing at 114 pounds at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) girls’ state wrestling championships.
Both the PHS boys’ and girls’ swimming teams went 12-0, competing in a virtual meet format. The Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team also went undefeated, going 5-0-1 while the Panther boys’ hockey team nearly matched that feat, posting a 4-1-1 record. The Hun School boys’ basketball team made the most out of its shortened season, going 8-2.
There was an increased sense of normalcy when the spring rolled around as postseason play resumed. The Hun baseball team rolled to a 19-2 record, winning its fifth straight state Prep A title in the process. The PHS boys’ tennis team also produced a dominant campaign, going 17-1 and winning both the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and the CVC conference titles. Making coach Sheryl Severance’s 28th and final season coaching the boys’ golf program one to remember, Princeton High had a 15-0 record in dual match play, winning the first-ever CVC Match Play Tournament and taking second in the Central/South Jersey sectional. The Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team placed third in the state Prep B tournament, earning two individual titles as Aaron Phogat and Oliver Silverio won the first doubles flight while the pair of Will Sedgley and Mark Santamaria prevailed at second doubles.
In the fall season, a number of programs made history. Bouncing back from a 0-4-1 season in 2020, the Hun School girls’ soccer team posted a 12-5-2 record, edging Pennington 4-3 in overtime in a thrilling state Prep A final and also winning the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. The Hun football team was a juggernaut, going 9-0 and outscoring foes 374-63 this fall. With Princeton Day School joining the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), two Panther teams earned the initial sectional titles in school history as the girls’ tennis team won the South Jersey Non-Public A championship and boys’ soccer prevailed in the South Jersey Non-Public B sectional.
Led by high-scoring striker Sophia Lis, the Princeton High girls’ soccer team produced a season for the ages, going 21-3, winning the CVC title, the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional championship, and making the program’s first-ever trip to the state Group 3 final along the way. The PHS girls’ tennis team added to its championship tradition, winning the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional crown. The Tiger cross country teams also excelled as the girls’ squad placed first at the Mercer County championship meet while the boys’ team prevailed at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet. more