Running to prepare for a title last fall, the Huns women’s soccer team knew there was a purpose behind it

Infuriating: Hun School girls soccer player Riley Hayes had possession during a game last season. Senior midfielder and third-team captain Hayes, the team’s leading scorer, helped the Raiders win the state Prep A championship last year with 11 goals and three assists, which will be the catalyst for Hun’s offense this season. The Raiders kicked off their 2022 campaign by attending the Hill School (Pennsylvania) on Sept. 9 at the Varsity Soccer Jamboree hosted by The Hill. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Alden

After a winless season in the 2020 campaign due to COVID concerns, the Huns School girls’ soccer team sneaked up on its foe last year.

Hun went full steam ahead with a stellar performance in the state Prep A Championship, culminating in a 4-3 overtime win over perennial powerhouse Pennington in the final to give the program its first Prep title since 2014.

As the Raiders head into the 2022 campaign, they know they have a bullseye on their backs.

“We’re driven by that, last year we were underdogs and now we have to defend this Prep title,” said Hun head coach Jenn Barrett, who led the Raiders to a 12-5-2 record last fall. 0-4-1 the previous year. “We know that people bring their competitive advantage to us. We’re working on every practice and every opportunity we have to push it so we’re ready for those moments.”

Based on the progress of pre-season training, the Huns appear to be ready for the challenge.

“Things are going very well and we have a really good group of girls,” said Barrett, whose team will play The Hill School (Pennsylvania) on Sept. 9 at the varsity football bash hosted by Hill. Start the 2022 campaign. “The girls are really excited and have confidence in themselves, their abilities and their opportunities.”

Barrett is looking for senior star and third-captain Riley Hayes, who was the Huns’ top scorer last fall with 11 goals and three assists, to create offensive opportunities in midfield.

“She’s a very competitive person and she hypees everyone up,” said Hayes’ Barrett, who has committed to Bucknell and its women’s soccer program. “She wants to get through tough times and when something needs to happen, she’s someone who wants the ball.”

Other players who could make a difference in midfield include senior Nev Palmeri (5 goals in 2021), junior Olivia Spector (2 goals, 5 assists), junior Sofia Cannulli, sophomore Julia Espinosa (1 goal, 2 assists) and junior Madison (1 assist).

“Neve is getting better and better every year; this year she’s showing her best mentality and her best body, which is amazing,” Barrett said. “She’s great, she plays midway with Riley. I’ll put Olivia somewhere in the center, whether it’s defensive center or center. She’s definitely a threat, even from 40 yards. I put her More like a defensive center who can move up. What we noticed last year is the way she plays really sets the tone. Sofia might play as a winger or an outside center. Julia’s physicality is a lot better than last year. She’s in the middle Play. McGrady is a very dynamic player and she will be able to play on the wing or in midfield.”

One-two punches from juniors Mackenzie Turner (7 goals, 3 assists) and Tessa Falcone (2 goals, 3 assists) will be catalysts for the forward position.

“They’re amazing sparks, they’re all threats,” Barrett said. “They can play anywhere, midfield or top. I can put them on the wing, I can put them on the centre. We’ll be looking forward to their chances to score. Their speed and speed are crucial.”

Senior Lauren Soler (1 goal, 1 assist) and junior Hannah Yanni provide depth to the offense.

“Lauren is a returner, she broke her elbow mid-season last year,” Barrett said. “She’s healthy this year and she’s going to play her best. Hannah is the new guy on the varsity team and definitely someone I’ll be at the top.”

On the defensive end, veterans consisting of senior third-captain Tooni Olaleye, sophomore Allie Devlin, senior third-captain Tatum D’Apolito, junior Gabi Rollins and senior Maya Zerud will patrol the backline.

“Tooni is definitely leading in the mid lane,” Barrett said. “We have Ellie and he’s been great in our scrimmages. She’s come back from last year as a freshman on the outside. She’s come back stronger too: she’ll play on the perimeter. Thum is on another perimeter and she’s amazing. Gabi is another big returner and he’s going to get more time this year. She’s getting stronger and stronger. She’s so versatile. Maya in her sophomore and junior years All out with injuries. She’ll be back mid-season, probably on defense.”

Hun’s last line of defense, junior goalie Zoey Palmer, is ready for another big fight.

“Zoe is one of the best goalies in the county,” Barrett asserted. “She’s been working hard and reflecting on her game. She’s the ultimate teammate. She’s getting back there and giving 100 percent. She can bring the ball to the field. After every practice and every game, she’s going to Ask me what I can do. She’ll stay after practice and keep working hard, she’s absolutely amazing.”

As Hun is working collectively this fall, the blueprint for their efforts will be John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, the famous UCLA basketball coach’s framework of traits and traits that help define a successful person and athlete.

“We work on the pyramid every preseason and throughout the season; we talk about it and read the book together,” Barrett said. “We need to be competitive and be the best you can be. That’s the top of the pyramid. We need to continue to be competitive. I love it because that’s why we play. Having these keys to success in life. That’s what I learned from sports and I want to pass it on. You rarely remember those records, but you remember those things.”

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