Athletes of the Class of 2018

photo: Annie Gao

photo: Annie Gao

Volleyball: Rachel Cheng 

For Rachel Cheng ’18, freshman year has been all about improving—especially in volleyball. She began developing her passion in fourth grade by playing with her father and furthered her commitment in eighth grade, joining the West Windsor-Princeton Volleyball club team.

“I moved here a year ago … [and] at first I thought [having to move] was really bad,” she said. “Now I realize that it’s kind of a new slate and I can start over … High school is busy, but I want to have fun too, so I figured joining the volleyball team would be my number one priority.”

Now on the PHS girls volleyball team, Cheng plays libero, the defense in the back row responsible for keeping spikes up.

“Her work ethic is great … She knew she had earned that spot on varsity, and in order to play with upperclassmen, she would have to elevate her game,” said Head Coach Patricia Manhart. “She would always push herself, and obviously that’s going to push her teammates to play well too.”

“I’m definitely going to do this all four years,” said Cheng. “I’m hoping to maybe become a captain, [and] I just really look forward to working with these girls.”

photo courtesy: Devon Lis

photo courtesy: Devon Lis

Girl’s Soccer: Devon Lis 

After playing soccer for more than half her life, Devon Lis ’18 is now part of the PHS girls varsity soccer team. From the Ukrainian Nationals club team in Pennsylvania to the John Witherspoon Middle School girls soccer team in Princeton, Lis has been a part of a host of school and club teams.

Although playing with middle school students and competing on a high school varsity team are different experiences in terms of skill level and workload, Lis was able to adjust to the transition.

“She’s more confident than the typical freshman, partially because soccer’s her main sport, but also because her older sister Taylor [Lis ’16] is on the team with her,” said girls soccer Head Coach Valerie Rodriguez. “She’s also versatile; I’ve had her in three different positions this season and she’s excelled in all of them.”

For Lis, there is a mix of emotions toward the season ending.

“I’m upset because we’re losing some great seniors,” she said, “but I’m excited for next year … [to see] where everything is going to go.”

photo: Catherine Curran-Groome

photo: Catherine Curran-Groome

Football: Vince Doran 

Beginning his football career at the age of five, Vince Doran ’18 came into his freshman year as a quarterback swinging for both the junior varsity and varsity squads of the Princeton High School football team. Doran’s upperclassmen teammates challenged him throughout the preseason to take bigger hits and become a stronger player.

“Working with the older athletes pushes me to step my game up, and the competitiveness helps me improve,” he said.

In the months prior to the current tournament season, Doran was focusing on his speed to keep up with his competitors on the opposing teams. “What I’ve noticed is he’s learning offense and has matured in his play since the beginning of the season,” Coach Danny Rodriguez said.

Doran added his first junior varsity win to his list of season accomplishments on October 25 against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South and also played the school’s varsity team later that evening. As for his varsity career, he said, “In this past game against [South], I got a couple reps in and completed my first varsity pass to one of the seniors on the team, Ben Danis [’15].” Doran completed two passes for 25 yards.

photo: Annie Gao

photo: Annie Gao

Aileen Wu: Girls Cross Country

Aileen Wu ’18 runs for the freshman girls cross country team. Wu won the freshman girls Mercer County Championship and set her invitational meet personal record at the race with a time of 22:04:00. Despite this, Head Coach James Smirk said that Wu’s best race was the XC Fall Classic, where she finished third in the girls junior varsity race.

Smirk also said that Wu’s motivation and attitude were her strongest assets. “She’s fearless when she races,” he said. “She definitely drives our freshman group when we race together to take more risks, and by far those are her greatest assets.”

Despite her achievements in her first season at PHS, Wu still sees plenty of room for improvement. One area in which she specifically hopes to improve is her ability to persevere through difficult situations. “I don’t give up, but I always reach a low point, and I need to learn to just think my way through that low point,” Wu said.

Wu will continue to run cross country as a sophomore, and hopes to make varsity next year and break 20 minutes.

Alex Ackerman: Boys Cross Country

After the boys cross country team’s first time trial workout, Alex Ackerman ’18 decided that by the end of the season he wanted to break 19:00 in the 5k, making the team’s cut-off for interval workouts. However, Ackerman accomplished this goal at the team’s very first meet, the Helene Cody 5k, with a time of 18:44.

From here, Ackerman improved to the point of placing first of the Princeton High School boys in the JV race at the Adidas Shore Coaches XC Invitational. He then started racing with varsity in invitationals and during the championship season.

“It’s normal to expect a freshman to be maybe in the 18s. But then to come down and run low 17s like he was doing was a real big leap,” said Head Coach Mark Shelley. “What I like about him is he’s tenacious, he’s really a racer, [and] he really tries to beat people.”

In terms of further decreasing his time, Ackerman said that next year he hopes to break 17:00 at Holmdel. As his current personal record on this course is currently 18:00, he recognizes that this will take some work. “I know it’s a big drop-off, but I think with tough work and the help from my teammates and my coaches, I’ll be able to do it.”

Field Hockey: Kate Rogers 

Aside from taking on the typical challenges of transitioning into high school, Kate Rogers ’18 has also had to establish her role on the varsity field hockey team as one of two goalies, working with many older and returning varsity players.

“Having the older girls be so inclusive made the transition really fun,” Rogers said. “My favorite thing [about field hockey] is the team.”

In field hockey, a goalie must communicate with and give orders to her teammates because the goalie has the best view of the field. Some freshmen could struggle with giving orders to upperclassmen teammates, but the team attitude has made this duty much easier for Rogers. “Everyone knows that’s what a goalie has to do, so they all just listen [to] do what they can for the team,” said Rogers.

During the championship season, Rogers had to step up as the starting goalkeeper while Maggie Welch ’16, the starting goalkeeper for the majority of the regular season games, was in France. “I think that [Kate] has done a really great job of maintaining her composure, considering how young she is,” said Serverson. “She’s a really level-headed person, which is a great quality to have in a goalie.”

Tennis: Helen Bennett 

Helen Bennett ’18 has been playing tennis for nine years.

At the start of the year, Bennett had several reasons for joining the tennis team. “I wanted to make new friends, play well, and improve my playing skills,” she said.

Now, after her first season of playing for PHS, Bennett believes that she accomplished what she set out to do. “The girls on the team were really nice and really inclusive,” Bennett said. “I think that over the course of the tennis season I really improved a lot.”

Head Coach Sarah Hibbert said, “Helen always contributed a positive attitude and a willingness to work hard. She is very coachable, and improved her skills a lot during the season.”

Boys Soccer: Dean Patel

Dean Patel ’18, boys freshman soccer forward and captain, started playing soccer eight years ago because his brother Dylon Patel ’14 was playing at the time.

Now an avid player, Dean Patel went out for the Princeton High School soccer team with one main goal in mind: making varsity. When this did not work out, Patel created a more attainable goal for himself and his freshman teammates: to go undefeated. This goal was reached, and Patel is proud of what he and his teammates did this season.

The highlight of the season for Patel was when he scored late in a game against Allentown High School, which turned out to be the winning goal in a 3–2 victory. Patel managed to score eight goals this season for the freshman team.

Patel is looking forward to next season and will try to reach his original objective of playing for varsity.

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