The Robbinsville High School feeder system appears ready to feed the Ravens athletic program some pretty nourishing morsels.
This past autumn at Pond Road Middle School, the boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer and field hockey teams combined for a 24-2-2 record. The boys went undefeated, the girls lost once and field hockey lost once and tied twice.
They not only won games, but did so while the athletes were prepared for what to expect when they move up.
It’s all part of the plan, according to athletic director Mike Johnson.
“Our coaches here have always had the mindset that our main objective is to have our student-athletes ready for the next level,” Johnson said.
Boys’ soccer coach Connor Hayes knew exactly what Ravens varsity coach Jeff Fisher was looking for in a player, since Hayes was Fisher’s JV coach last season. He had good news to report to his old boss.
“We were definitely in contact a lot throughout the season,” Hayes said. “This is a special group of players. If they stick together and stick with soccer, they can accomplish some great things at the next level. Everyone got a lot of playing time this season. We were very deep with a lot of talent.”
There were two 6th-graders in the starting lineup in Max Goldberg and Nico Matthews, while 7th-grader Owen Vorhees also started. Rounding out the first-stringers were 8th-graders Giacomo Bottoni, Ethan Brown, Grayson Hopkins, Alex Ivanov, Adrian Ivanov, Stefano Muscara and Bora Turker.
Rounding out the varsity roster were 7th-graders Leo Daniels, Ethan Pagani and Mitch Shapiro, and 8th-graders Kanhav Bhatnagar, Jason Stark, Tyler Cohen, Blaise Grippa, Ayush Kumar Singh, Mateo Mosquera and Dan Silva. It was a group that looked out for each other.
“There was no selfish play at all,” Hayes said. “Something that was very unique with this team, they were able to take set plays we put in and practiced for maybe 15 minutes the day before and execute those plays for goals the next day in games.”
The junior varsity team featured Jackson Klaus, Chris Meehan, Santino Bottoni, Justin Cecil, Nick Grippa, Brody Kaplan, Eddie Keating, Alex Messinger, Zachary Miller, Marco Parisi, Tanay Samnani, Kavi Gandham, Andrew O’Reilly, Vishua Sathappan and Nathan Fleck.
Girls’ soccer coach Kristina Fisher had feelings similar to Hayes.
“The girls on the team really meshed well together on the field,” Fisher said. “Our ball skills were strong; we could possess the ball very well. We had a lot of give and go’s between our forwards and midfielders. We shined in small spaces and fields, and communicated well.”
Sofia DiMeola, a 7th-grade midfielder/forward, led the team in scoring with eight goals while 8th-grade forwards Lizzie Andrus and Ashley Roberts had five apiece. Alyssa Spalding and Jordan Pancari, both 8th-grade midfielders, scored four goals apiece, 7th-graders Stella Cerniglia and Vivian Gallucio had three each, 7th-grader Ella Moir had two and 7th-grader Morgan Gonser added one.
Eighth-graders Abby Horner and Perri Gonser were in goal, aided by 8th-grade defenders Bri Siracusa, Riley Solovay, Ava Surtz and midfielder Christina Rosica Rounding out the varsity roster were 8th-graders Kaitlyn Buckelew and Madeline Delcampe; and 7th-graders Caileigh Guzik, Grace Kohut and Ella Moir.
“Ava Surtz, Riley Solovay, Briana Siracusa and Morgan Gonser were dynamite on the back line,” Fisher said. “They worked so well together, it was rare that the ball made it to the goalies. Even in the game we lost, Witherspoon only had a couple shots; but they were just good shots.”
Another defensive clinic came in a 1-0, double-overtime victory over Stonebridge, in which Pond Road scored with a minute remaining in the second OT. This time, it was the keeper who stood out.
“Our goalie Abby Horner played a fabulous game along with our whole team,” Fisher said. “We came to play and the girls really stepped up and played well. We gave up the most shots all season in that game and not one went in. Abby had to make multiple saves off her line, she came out aggressive and on top in the end.”
The JV team was also stellar with a 4-0 record. The roster featured 6th-graders Ava Aldarelli, Kate Andrus, Lindsay Castro, Hailey Kaplan, Hayley Lutz, Nica Martin, Emily Morgan, Gabriella Sabol and Julianna Scott, 7th-graders Tanvi Chandanala, Raya Chaudhuri, Julia Meddhai, Stacey Schaaf, Lilly Shoenfelt and Kellianne Shite, and 8th-grader Reynah Thakur.
And while the JV looks to maintain success with the Pond Road varsity next year, Fisher is hoping her current 8th-graders can impact the Ravens program.
“I had a blast coaching this group of girls, they made me love the game more and made me laugh along the way,” she said.
Field hockey coach Jane Hutchison’s players made her and assistant Joan Oszvart love coaching this year, too.
“Joan and I have coached together for many years, and our philosophy had always been to build camaraderie and a supportive team family,” Hutchison said. “That has been the secret to much of our success. We were very lucky to have a fantastic year. Many of our players started in their sixth-grade year and have been growing in their skills and abilities.”
That group of experienced 8th-graders included Sophia Bottoni, Sorella Gallucci, Camryn Gartner, Kelsie James, Kendall Franke, Haley Krebs, Daphee Luong, Jordyn Pepper, Ashley Rohloff, Kalyn Rosica, Amanda Solares and Katie Ziliani. Seventh-graders featured Gabriella Bottoni, Corinne Ferrone, Sarah Klinger, Sophia Latini, Grace Malunow, Brianna Mosquera, Natalie Schwartz and Hailey Tkacs; while the 6th-graders were Sara Cooper, Ava Esposito, Gabriella Louis, Aubrey Nix, Emma Reeves and Grace Miller.
It was a group from which the young learned from the old.
“The other amazing thing about our team is the way the older, experienced players took the newer players under their wings,” Hutchison said. “They are patient and supportive, which is so important for the team. It also shows them as role models for the younger players.”
“We hope that our current eighth-graders continue to play at Robbinsville. We have always been very proud of the fact that we are the feeder system to the high school. We hope the seeds we plant here will help them to flourish at the next level.”