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After advancing to the non-public title B game last year, PDS boys football brings greater self-confidence in 22

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KICK OFF: Princeton Day School boys soccer player Joaquin Rodriguez kicks the ball down the pitch during a 2021 game. Senior midfielder and co-captain Rodriguez is ready to ignite the attack PDS this season. The Panthers kick off their 2022 campaign playing at Burlington Township High on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team debuted in the Non-Public B Tournament last fall, they didn’t appear to be in contention for the title as they went 8-11 in the competition. .

But the seventh-seeded PDS produced an emotional run, winning the South Jersey sectional title before losing 3-1 to Gill St. Bernard’s in the non-public State B final.

Heading into the 2022 season, Panthers head coach Brian Thomsen believes the way the tournament went has proven to be a confidence-builder for his returning players.

“Guys have a little confidence now that we’ve had a year playing South Jersey Non-Public B,” said Thomsen, who guided PDS to a 12-12 record in his first season at the closed off. from the program. “They feel a bit more confident that they can have playoff success.”

Thomsen thinks his team is ready for a successful fall.

“We’ve got a good group of guys on the court to go into battle,” said Thomsen, whose team play at Burlington Township High on Sept. 8 in their season opener.

Senior midfielder and three-time team captain Joaquin Rodriguez is considered key for the Panthers.

“Joaquin is an awesome kid; he defines what it is to be a PDS student, everyone looks forward to dealing with him,” Thomsen said. “He has been such a good ambassador for the program. He is definitely excited about the year. He is thrilled to be a leader and not in the shadow of the guys who have been here for the past two years. He really embraced the whole mantra that we may not be the best team in football, but we are definitely someone who will work hard. We are a group that will defend and play very well together, which is really important.

PDS should get some good work in midfield from senior Michael Zebrowski and second Todd Devin.

“Michael didn’t play last year and took a year off,” Thomsen said. “He’s very good. Todd was a freshman last year who played just about every minute in every game.

The trio of senior Julian Liao, junior Yaseen Mousa and junior Gyan Gautam will be looking to produce as strikers.

“Julian came in really strong at the end of last year, we can’t wait to get him,” Thomsen said. “Yaseen was playing away for us because we had Milan Shan and William Vasquez. They were the guys upstairs doing the heavy lifting so he’s happy to move into a striker role. Gyan was coming off the bench l last year he should be a very good player for us. He is in a
good place.”

Along the back line, senior Shay Bhens and senior
tri-captain Raag Desikan will lead the way.

“Shay was good enough to play last year and start as a centre-back, but the problem with him was that he had a lot of injuries that bothered him,” Thomsen said. “I think we’ve finally got him healthy this year. If we can get Shay and Raag at center back, that allows Todd and Michael to sit there in the defensive midfield positions with Joaquin playing attacking midfielder. .

The quartet of senior Jared Sandberg, second Hart Liu Nowakoski, senior Oliver Hall and second Penn von Zelowitz provide some versatility for the Panthers.

“Jared is another guy who could see time in midfield and out,” said Thomsen, whose reserve squad will include senior Aaron Herscovici, second Max Schragger, senior Joshua Chu, junior Jameson Reilly, second Henry West and junior Sebastian Rzeczycki.

“We will have another child, Hart, who will be an outside back as well as a central attacking midfielder to give Joaquin a break. Oliver is a professional lacrosse and hockey player who decided he wanted to play soccer this year. He brings athleticism to the group that we really don’t have. Penn will see time as an outside winger.

Senior goalkeeper and three-time captain John Mazzarisi is set for a great final campaign for PDS.

“John is a fantastic shooter, he has improved a lot with his communication,” said Thomsen, noting second substitute Oren Yakoby is showing a lot of potential. “He is capable of hitting the ball with his goal kicks and punts. Its distribution has improved a lot. I’m excited to see how he’s growing, I think the big thing he and I talked about in the winter of last year was his ability to keep shutouts and take pride in shutting people out. This is where we are headed. He makes big saves all the time.

With PDS going through a tough schedule this fall, Thomsen believes the team will peak on the home stretch.

“We’re dealing with it like we did last year with a building block approach,” Thomsen said. “I think at the end of the day we know that at the end of the year we will be in a position where we can make some noise in the state tournament. We will play a schedule that is very interesting. We we’re kind of like the University of Notre Dame from a football perspective. We’re going to play an independent program. We can play whoever we want and then we have our prep school rivalries. It’s a really cool experience for those kids, especially towards the end of the year with Counties, Prep B and Non-Public. We’re thrilled.”

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