On the heels of winning the state relay championships last month, the girls take the overall state title as well, the program's first in eight years.
The gesture, which suddenly committed the basketball captain and lacrosse player to a third, nearly full season of sport, exemplifies the tenacity and spirit she feels as a Big Blue athlete. And she loves everything about the role—running out onto the lush green of Miller A. Bugliari World Cup Soccer Field, shooting hoops in the drudgery of winter with a tight-knit group of friends, the bus rides back from lacrosse games, which, even if they followed a loss, still somehow, after some song and banter, felt like wins.
“Together” is the word she would choose to sum up her athletic memories at Pingry. “At the end of the day, we all come out after a hard day of school and we’re with each other. Some days we just want to go home, but we gather our teams, a small nerdy school often facing much larger opponents,” she says. “We have to win together or we’re not going to win.”
This is my Pingry.
“’This is an existential game,’ he said to me. ‘You’re a very good freshman, you know your place on the team, but it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; you play like you play and good things will happen,’” recalls Jack. “I will never forget his words. We lost that game, but our defense, which I’m proud to be a part of, held Hillside to 18 points, one of their lowest scoring games all season.”
What word would this three-sport athlete use to sum up Pingry athletics? Pride. It’s not only the school chant, he says, it speaks to the greater character of the school, and the coaches’ commitment to—and expectation of—the players.
She was down in a big tennis tournament, playing poorly against a girl she should have easily upset. She lost badly, and was distraught. “I was embarrassed, but Coach Diaz pulled me over and helped me to regroup. He arranged a time for us to review all my previous matches from the season to figure out what I was doing right and where I could improve. He and Coach Weber were so comforting and supportive throughout the season. Ultimately, I learned from that experience not to stress out so much, to stay positive. On or outside the tennis court, you just can’t let yourself get down.” She adds, after reflecting for a moment: “If a teammate of mine gets sad like I did, I hope I can comfort her the same way my coaches did.”
Indeed, the team community is what Jessica cites as most valuable to her as a Big Blue athlete. A calligrapher and aspiring rock climber, tennis player and sabre fencer, she is drawn to pursuits that require hand-eye coordination and fast reflexes. But far more than honing these skills under the guidance of expert coaches, she says, it’s the close-knit group of friends, her teammates, who have given her the most. When asked to capture Pingry athletics in a short phrase, she replies, thoughtfully, “A sense of belonging.”
Reticent and petite, Natalia says playing for Big Blue teams allows her to show a different side of herself. “I’m super focused in school and on the playing field, but it’s a different ‘me’, in a way, on the field,” she said. “Sometimes I can hear the opponents’ coaches yell from the sidelines, ‘Number 20 has nothing on you; she’s short!’ Then I score and prove them wrong. It’s such a great feeling.”
Soccer is her passion. When Paris Saint-Germain headquartered itself at Pingry for a portion of its preseason training, she was front and center, watching one of her favorite professional teams intently, studying their technique. Despite her involvement in a serious club team outside of school—International GFA— including an invited stint to play at the U.S. Soccer Training Center at Princeton University and the national training camp in Phoenix, she really can’t imagine not playing for Pingry. “I’m really proud to be a part of the team.”