The Spring 2021 Athletics season provided a number of highlights across all fields and courts, including the welcomed return of spectators to outdoor contests. Panther teams routinely showed their trademark determination, taking on all comers and battling to the very end at every opportunity.
This spring also included the resumption of championship tournaments for PDS teams for the first time since before the pandemic began. Boys Varsity Tennis pairs Aaron Phogat '21/Oliver Silverio '23 and Mark Santamaria '21/Will Sedgley '21 triumphed in both first and second doubles to win Prep B championships. Boys Varsity Lacrosse battled through adversity to reach the Prep B finals, though they came up just short in a tough game.
Below are season recaps from each head coach, including remarks on individual student-athlete award winners, and extensive photo highlights in a series of Flickr albums.
Photo by Nancy Erickson
Girls Varsity Lacrosse
From Coach Jill Thomas: "The 2021 Varsity team returned to the field March 22 after a long year away from the game. The girls were thrilled to be given the opportunity to have a season and quickly got to work developing their stick skills and working at both the offensive and defensive end of the field. The 'vibe' on the field was something special as they rekindled their friendships and commitment to the game.
"The month of April would be very successful for the team as they would start the season 6-0. The month of May would bring some of the best teams in NJ to our campus and we would travel to others to complete our 15-game season. The girls have much to be proud of as they held their own against these teams. On several occasions they played some of their best lacrosse, especially against Lawrenceville, Mount St. Mary’s and Blair. The future looks bright because the seniors have left the team in good hands. We will miss them but know they will be with us on the sidelines both in spirit and when they are physically able to return to campus."
2021 Kim Bedesem Varsity Team Award winner: Alex Hollander '21
"It's been three years since Alex Hollander was able to step onto the field and play the game of lacrosse at the level she started as a freshman. The journey at times seemed impossible, but she persevered and has had a terrific senior season. She was a leader on and off the field–mainly at the defensive end and in transition. She gave 100% to the team effort, communicating with her teammates all over the field. She has terrific stick skills and a knack for being in the right spot to make an important play. For us coaches, it's been great to have her back and a pleasure to coach her one more season."
Girls JV Lacrosse
From Coach Kira Dudeck: "The Girls JV Lacrosse Team of 2021 finished the season with a record of 8-1-1. We had 12 players on our roster but sometimes had a couple extras or sometimes had a couple less. Even though we didn’t always know how many people we’d have for each game, it was certain that each player would bring every ounce of effort, fight and heart they had onto the field every time. They were ferocious and proved that to us every day.
"They played well with each other. Every player found a way to contribute. We’re so proud of the way they showed humility, respect and control when we played weaker teams. We moved the ball and communicated and, most importantly, took care of each other. It was an absolute honor to work with these students and to be a part of their lives. We are so excited to see what their lacrosse future brings!"
JV Coaches’ Award Winner: Maddy Flory '24
"Maddy Flory deserves this recognition for all the ways that her hard work and leadership has shaped how our team played. She was focused and ready every day. She played selflessly and would work to help her teammate get a goal, when she could’ve gone for it herself. We could put Maddy at any position. She sees the field better than most and has a high lacrosse IQ, so we moved her to different areas based on which end needed the most support. She’s a great athlete and teammate. She listens and is very coachable. She’s the ideal player! We look forward to seeing her in action again next lacrosse season."
Photo by Nancy Erickson
From Coach Doug MacMillan: "The Varsity Golf team struggled this season to a 2-5 record but not for the lack of heart or hard work. Under the leadership of our lone Senior and captain, Jamie Granato '21, the young team played tough and never gave up. The two wins against Pennington and a great team total of 220 in a loss are evidence of the varsity team’s potential. Additionally, the team closed out the season with a strong showing at the Prep Tournament, where the team came in second place due to the individual 3rd place finish of Eli Soffer '22. With Varsity players, Aiden Silverstein '22, Karan Shah '23, Will Foster '22, Eli Soffer and Robert Ding '24 returning next season, the team has an opportunity to improve both individually and as a team."
Varsity Award Winner: Jamie Granato '21
"Jamie exemplified the role of team captain by always encouraging and supporting his teammates in a positive and uplifting manner. He also showed great leadership and selflessness on and off the course. His hard work and determination to improve set an example for the entire program. He will be missed, but the program is better for having had him on the team."
From Coach Nicholas Colati: "While the Junior Varsity team had a very limited schedule of only two matches this season, they were committed to practicing and improving. They consistently put in the time and effort whether they were indoors, at the driving range or out on the course at Bedens Brook. Returning players, Grant Wells 22, Lizzy Ma '23 and Caden Bialow 23, were joined by freshman players Kayla Zhang '24, Jameson Reilly '24 and Aadi Shankar '24 to round out the team. Each player gained valuable playing experience that will hopefully carry over into next season."
Boys Varsity Tennis
From Coach Michael Augsberger: "Boys Varsity Tennis had a season to be proud of. The team consistently battled from start to finish in matches, never giving in whether they lost a first set or other things weren't going their way. The ability and willingness to battle like that is something that you can't really teach. In taking on the best players our opponents had to offer each match, all of our younger players learned valuable lessons in key mental and physical aspects of the game that are crucial to success. Our seniors also consistently led by example with their work ethic, which surely rubbed off on the younger members of the team.
"Our Prep B finish reflects a worthy aspiration–to test ourselves with the strongest competition during the season, and then to compete well and earn accolades in the tournament. I couldn't be prouder of the way that both teams attacked their Prep tournament matchups and handled everything that came their way. Aaron Phogat '21, Oliver Silverio '23, Mark Santamaria '21 and Will Sedgley '21 certainly deserve to be called champions and they represented PDS in the tournament with honor and class. I am excited to see the continued development of the returning members of our team as they move forward and become the new leaders as this senior class graduates."
Varsity Award Winner: Mark Santamaria '21
"Mark Santamaria was second doubles Prep B champion as a senior. He and his partner, Will, lost just five games throughout the entire Prep B tournament. Mark led the team by example, fitness, smarts and hustle on a daily basis."
Boys JV Tennis
From Coach Dede Webster '62: "The 2021 Boys JV Tennis Team consisted of 18 members, ranging from six freshmen to two seniors. Despite the rainy spring, 10 matches were completed and every player participated in at least one match. Our excellent 7-3 record consisted of victories over Blair, Hun (twice), Peddie, Rutgers Prep, Hill and Morristown. We lost to strong squads from Pingry, Blair and Lawrenceville."
JV Coaches’ Award Winner: Jason Ma '22
"The well-deserved Coaches’ Award goes to Jason Ma for his leadership, sportsmanship, skill and commitment to the team."
Photo by Nancy Erickson
From Coach Angela Parascando: "Varsity Softball played eight regular season games and ended with a 5-3 record. Two very impressive freshmen, Adriana Salzano '24 and Colleen Mayer '24 often helped carry the team this year. They are a huge asset to this team both in the present and for years to come. Their attitudes and dedication are exactly what this team needs in order to be successful and to grow to where we would like it to go. This season was a significant step in the right direction for the program and hopefully the first of many over the next several years."
Varsity Award Winner: Abby Weinstein '21
"Abby Weinstein deserves this award because of the commitment she made to the PDS softball program for the last four years. Every year, Abby has demonstrated her willingness to learn and improve. She earned the title of captain both her junior and senior year. She exemplified the qualities of a leader on and off the field and became a role model for the younger players. She has been an integral part of this team and this program and a true pleasure to coach."
Photo by Nancy Erickson
Varsity Figure Skating
From Coach Courtney Hodock: "Another Figure Skating season’s over and what a successful one it’s been! This year we had 11 members on the Figure Skating team and five senior skaters–Jenny Zhang '21, Jessie Lin '21, Maya Shah '21, Gaby Namouni '21, and Natasha Ray '21. These seniors have all been skating together since Middle School. They are truly special and it is not often that students will continue to skate through their senior year.
"The highlight of the season was the 12th Annual Ice Skating Spirit Showcase at Lisa McGraw '44 Rink on May 12. Everyone did fantastically well. The live event was breathtaking! The skaters capped off their work throughout the spring to develop solo routines featuring skills of their choice, along with a grand finale number incorporating the whole team. The showcase was live-streamed to the community, with parents of seniors specially invited to attend in accordance with health screening and safety guidelines.
"The best part about this showcase and our figure skating program is that we have a diverse group of skaters with a wide range of experience. Some of our skaters are very competitive and have skated with outside clubs for years, while others are relatively new to the sport. Each solo number is tailored to the individual skater's skillset and comfort level, while the whole team worked together to create a final group routine that successfully incorporated every skater's skill.
"Twelve months ago, I missed being on the ice with the team and that made this years’ experience much more meaningful and enjoyable. I appreciate the efforts of each and every member of the team. I am proud of how each skater pulled together as a team to support each other–always. It has truly been a pleasure coaching the PDS Figure Skating team this year and I look forward to next season!"
Varsity Award Winner: Jenny Zhang '21
"This year's varsity award goes to one of our five seniors on the team who has a tremendous work ethic and always strives for athletic excellence. Jenny Zhang took a leadership role helping to create the Varsity Team Group Program for the Spring Showcase along with the other senior leaders. She is committed to perfection on the ice–which as a figure skater is a must! She is determined and resilient when it comes to landing her jumps. She started skating when she was seven years old and trained hard all year long, every year. She has passed her US Figure Skating Senior Moves in the Field, Pre-Gold Dances, and Juvenile Free Skate. Her teammates say that she is inspiring and shows passion on the ice. We often say in figure skating that your feet can learn the steps, but only your heart can skate them, and Jenny always skates with heart!"
Girls Volleyball (Varsity and JV)
From Coach Michael Villafane: "This season was a massive step forward for the program. We may not have won many matches, but the girls played with tremendous heart and poise. We took some sets from very difficult teams and nearly beat Notre Dame on their home court. The girls picked up the sport in an earnest way, learning all the positions, rotations and intricacies of the game that more experienced programs feature. The team looked and played like a team that deserves to be on the floor with any team. They always hung together and competed as a unit. Whenever someone took the floor, we knew they would work their hardest and give all they could to help the team be successful. Most importantly, we had a fun season full of laughs, improvement and creating a love for volleyball. I am proud of every one of our players and look forward to the following seasons with our program."
Varsity Award Winner: Sophia Chaves-Gamboa '21
"On the varsity level, one exceptional player truly stood out and embodied everything that was PDS volleyball. Sophia Chaves-Gamboa worked tirelessly for her peers. Setting up the net, first to arrive and last to leave nearly every day. She played with love for her teammates and pride in her effort. I am so proud to have coached her because I have seen very few leaders like her. She deserves every accolade she receives."
JV Coaches’ Award Winner: Ziya Brittingham
"During the JV season we had many first-time volleyball players. It took a lot of courage and patience through the uncomfortable process of learning something completely new. Ziya Brittingham took this challenge in stride by encouraging her teammates to keep pursuing their goals throughout the season. She studied the game outside of our practices. Ziya was a joy to coach, the type of athlete a coach hopes to have on their team every year."
Photo by Nancy Erickson
From Coach Jeff Young: "The first two weeks prior to having games set the foundation of how we would train and prepare, and it gave me a chance to do a needs-based assessment. I embraced the challenge of the team's relatively young experience and talent level because it allowed me to teach so many parts of the game. Another challenge was a spate of injuries to players who had the potential to make big contributions had they been healthy, including pitchers Jackson Bailey '22 and Bryce Powell '21. Because we were light on pitchers, players generously volunteered to pitch even though they had no prior experience. This situation, in which we rarely outscored our opponents, caused us to focus on developmental skills such as performing a successful dirt-ball read. Practices were challenging and engaging. We were able to bond as a team with things that we did aside from baseball and with our ongoing group chat. I'm optimistic about the future growth of this program and proud of this team."
Varsity Award Winner: Shivan Singh '21
"The varsity award goes to Shivam Singh, a first-time varsity player as a senior. Shivan was the player that I could rely on to keep his emotions in check and respond in tough situations. He contributed all season as both a pitcher and hitter."
Photo by Nancy Erickson
Boys Varsity Lacrosse
From Coach Joe Moore: "Our program has faced countless challenges over the last year. From the loss of PDS lacrosse legend, Pete Higgins, to ongoing roadblocks presented by COVID. Our ten seniors have led the program through all of the challenges and have stayed focused while also keeping their underclassmen teammates engaged. Despite several losses throughout the first half of the season, our players have come to practice and put the work in to turn things around in the second half of the season. With a current record of 7-7, given the amount of adversity we’ve faced, the year has been a success. Our most impressive win came late in the season away against Hun. It was the first time that we had equal contributions from both sides of the field and the game can be defined as a true team-win.
Varsity Award Winner: Eric Gellasch '21
"As the season progressed, Eric Gellasch developed into one of the top goaltenders in the state. His strong play in net helped us stay competitive with several teams throughout the season and was one of the key ingredients of our end-of-season winning streak. Eric has grown into a leader of our program and he will be missed next season."
Boys JV Lacrosse
From Coach Bassam Rifai: "The 2021 Boys JV season was a tricky but overall it was a successful season for the boys. The team dropped losses in their first two games as they were coming together and finding their positions and roles on the team. But going forward after those losses the team wouldn't drop another game and they finished out their JV season in dramatic fashion with a sudden death overtime game-winning goal. There were two areas of focus this season: to make sure that all the players had a good time and also to develop their skills so they could eventually be prepared for the move up to the varsity level next season or be ready to step into a varsity position this year if needed.
"I'm proud to say that there were a handful of players that proved that they could handle the next level when they were needed and I think they will be strong assets to this team in the future. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention a particular player who was firmly at the varsity level, but because he was a freshman he had strong relationships with many of the JV players. His lacrosse IQ for his age is so strong that he was able to privately pull JV players aside and help guide them. Coming from a peer rather than a coach, I could see them accept this guidance. Although he wasn't a JV player, the guidance of Sebastian Rzeczycki '24 to the JV players really helped in the progression of this team. I hope that come next year some of the JV players will be inspired by the type of leadership role he played and step into it for the new players.
JV Coaches’ Award Winner: Adam Teryek '22
"Coming into any sport that you never learned at a young age can be very difficult, but coming into a technical sport like lacrosse is even more challenging. Seeing Adam Teryek’s growth on a nearly daily basis and the exceptional attitude he carried and shared with his teammates was beyond my expectations. We are looking forward to the skills Adam will bring with him for the next season."
Rookie of the Season Awards:
Photo by Nancy Erickson
Adriana Salzano '24, Varsity Softball
"As far as rookie of the season goes, I don't think there is anyone more deserving of this award than Adriana Salzano. I don't even know the other candidates that are up for this award but I know this student and I have never met another person (not child) with as much passion, dedication, and compassion as this young woman has. She is not only an amazing softball player but a wonderful teammate and student. She cares so much about her teammates and even helps them before practice even begins. As a freshman, she earned the title of captain with the votes from her teammates. She truly goes above and beyond. She is the first to arrive and the last to leave. She learned how to pitch in the beginning of the season and has done a terrific job keeping this team together. Her batting average this season (9 games) was an outstanding .700 (21-30, which is almost unheard of for any player). She pitched shut-outs and no-hitters and when not pitching performed stellar defense. I could not be prouder of any player I have ever coached at this school."
Oliver Silverio '23, Varsity Boys Tennis
"Oliver was first doubles Prep B champion in his first varsity season. On match point in the semifinals against favored (and team champions) Pennington, he slid on his knees on hardcourt to return a shot. It was the best hustle play I've ever seen in amateur tennis. This capped a three-set comeback win. He works hard and treats the game and opponents with the utmost respect."
Athlete of the Season Citations
Hailey Wexler '21, Varsity Girls Lacrosse
"Hailey stood tall between the pipes for us this season and is one of the leading goalies in the area in save percentage, averaging 9 saves per game. She played her best against the best, as we saw in the Lawrenceville game. Her calm demeanor in the cage is so deceptive and she makes the most difficult saves look so easy. With a little side step and sometimes a kick of her foot, our opponents have quickly learned that only the best placed shots will make it past her. It is evident that Hailey’s two favorite things are when she intercepts a pass from the goal circle or when she gets to dodge an attack player to make a clear under pressure. She will be greatly missed next year and we know how lucky The College of New Jersey is to have her! Congratulations, Hailey, on being named the 2021 Athlete of the Spring Season!"Photo by David Bremer
Gibson Linnehan '21, Varsity Boys Lacrosse
"Despite numerous nagging injuries, Gibson found ways to help our team find success throughout the season. He also made a name for himself as one of the top defenders in the state. We are thankful for Gibby's contributions both on and off the field this season."
Enjoy photo highlights of the Spring 2021 season in our Flickr albums at the links below: