No matter how many wins the Princeton Day School girls soccer team gets this year, it won’t be able to add “2020 Prep Champs” to the banner that greets those arriving to the Panthers’ home field.
The run of six straight of those prep state titles will have to take a pause for this year, added to the endless list of sacrifices to the pandemic with no NJISAA tournaments. But, absent that, the Panthers are trying to measure success where they can, and they’ll roll into November with a six-game winning streak.
Beginning a busy run of three games in five days, PDS scored three times in the first 11 minutes on Saturday on the way to a 6-0 win over Hun in the Panthers’ home finale.
Sophomore Grace Romano had her first career hat trick, giving her five goals in the last two games.
“We’re feeling really good,” Romano said. “The chemistry this year is really good, and I think it shows. It was really nice that we got a lot of people on the field that have never been on the field, and we really just wanted to win this one for the seniors. I think we did really well doing that.”
Romano’s senior sister Jules Romano had the Panthers’ last goal and the only one of the second half, coming with six-plus minutes left in the game. Fellow senior Kelly Beal scored hers in between Grace Romano’s first two, making up the three goals that put PDS up 3-0 before 11 minutes were gone.
Adriana Salzano made it 4-0 with seven minutes before the half, and less than three minutes later, Grace Romano had her hat trick and PDS had a five-goal lead. Rookie keeper Jesse Hollander made four saves for the shutout in her first career start.
PDS’s busy stretch will continue with a trip east to Mater Dei on Monday before the big showdown with Pennington matching the two reigning NJISAA prep champs, with Pennington in Prep A and PDS in Prep B each enjoying multi-year streaks with those trophies.
With no such championships at stake this fall, Romano said the Panthers have found other benchmarks for success.
“We’re just really focused on keeping home record, trying to win as many as possible, trying to let in less in our net and really just trying to capitalize on all our opportunities and come closer as a team, because it’s going to help next year too,” Romano said.
Following a season-opening 3-2 home loss to Monroe, PDS won its final three at home through Saturday’s Senior Day win, and the team has outscored opponents 27-7 through its seven games.
After PDS faces a Mater Dei team on Monday looking to bounce back following being swept home-and-home by Point Pleasant Beach, the Panthers will try on Wednesday to solve a Pennington team that is off to a 4-0 start.
The teams split their games a year ago, with a 3-1 regular-season win for PDS before Pennington knocked the Panthers out of the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, 2-0.
“It’s a game that in Mercer County gets a lot of attention,” PDS coach Patrick Trombetta said. “They’ve got a very strong team. All 11 field players, there’s no weaknesses out there, so we’re looking forward to that game.”
The MCT won’t happen this year either in another loss to the pandemic, so all that’s left on the table for PDS after the Mater Dei and Pennington games are trips to Camden Catholic on Nov. 9 and St. Rose on Nov. 12.
“Obviously, it’s a season like no other, with everything that we’re dealing with,” Trombetta said. “We’re not in a tournament this year, which is a little difficult to keep them incentivized, but it’s a good group of girls.”
Minus MCT or NJISAA titles as a carrot, the goals Trombetta is stressing are ones that stretch over years.
“We look at our strong success and winning tradition, and we say that we’ve got to keep on passing on the torch from year to year,” Trombetta said. “So, it’s their responsibility this year to play focused and play as strong as they could.”