Princeton High School experienced highs and lows during the 2021 sports season.
PHS teams recorded several district titles, postseason awards, state medalists and long playoff runs despite a year peppered with cancellations due to the pandemic and unforeseen circumstances.
Girls Basketball – Lady Panthers finish third in district
The Princeton girls basketball team reached its first playoff game in three seasons.
Finishing third in their district, the Lady Panthers found an identity in their defense last season, holding opponents to 50 points or less 22 times this season. Entering a bi-district game with Frisco Memorial, who also displayed a strong defense, Princeton knew it needed to have its best game of the season to advance to the second round.
In the playoffs, the Lady Panthers were unable to find enough offensive success down the stretch, losing to the Lady Warriors 42-38.
Princeton closed out the season with a 21-5 overall record with their only losses against opponents who made the playoffs.
The Lady Panthers graduated four seniors from last year’s team: Kayla Fuller, Bria Dillard, Mahgen Ayling and Payton Aungst.
Princeton’s biggest returning players for the 2021-22 season include three junior starters, McKenna, Walker and Cave; as well as bench contributors like Kynnedi Webb and Aryianna Stephens.
Boys Basketball – Panthers struggle with outside forces, miss playoffs.
The team struggled with in-season delays and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in coach Eric Lockman’s tenure.
Despite an experienced roster the Panthers were unable to overcome a size disadvantage, finishing with a 5-15 record. They were 3-10 in district play, including a sweep of Wylie East and a road victory against Denison.
Princeton had multiple games postponed or canceled this season due to a combination of the pandemic and bad weather.
Princeton graduated seven seniors: Torijuan Burns, Julian Malhas, Caedon Ayling, Josiah Crockett, Cody Beal, Kieran Washington and Tristan Cook.
Powerlifting- Walker wins gold medal at state powerlifting meet.
Last season four members of the girls team traveled to Corpus Christi to compete in the state powerlifting competition March 19-20. Alongside powerlifters from 45 other small 5A schools, the Lady Panthers were able to finish 11th place overall, with senior Natalie Walker and junior Caroline Speer finishing near the top of their respective weight classes.
In her fourth time qualifying for state, Walker earned her first gold medal, earning first place in the 114-pound weight class. Additionally, Walker finished as the top weightlifter in the lightweight divisions, earning the lightweight division’s Most Outstanding Powerlifter, best squat and best bench. For her performance, Walker earned the THSWPA Academic Scholarship of $1,000 and will be added to the THSWPA Hall of Champions.
In her first state event, Speer finished fifth place in the over 259-pound weight class. Aviana Baca finished ninth in the 181-pound division with a personal best of 755 total pounds, while Deysey Fuentes finished tied for ninth in the 259-pound division.
Soccer – Princeton soccer misses playoffs.
During the 2020-21 season, both the boys and girls teams failed to make the playoffs.
The Lady Panthers finished with an 8-12-2 record. Six players earned a spot on either the first or second all-district team while five other players earned spots as an honorable mention.
Leading the way on the first team all-district was senior midfielder Amaris Jasso, who was joined on the first team by sophomore forward Anna Bewley and junior Reyvyn Grimaldo. Members of the second team all-district for Princeton include senior Almareli Ordonez, junior Kaylynn Spurgin and junior Naomi English.
Five Lady Panthers qualified as all-district honorable mentions: sophomore Chandler Sorrell, senior Ryann Hernandez, junior Carmen Conteras, freshman Emily Bautista and freshman Tiffany Urenda. The Lady Panthers have five graduating seniors: Jasso, Hernandez, Ordonez, Vanesa Rosales-Zamarripa and Mia Debaisieux.
An inexperienced Princeton boys soccer team finished 4-17-5 season.
Junior Leobardo Renteria earned a first team all-district selection, having been a big part of the team’s success this season. Senior goalkeeper Gio Luna, who served as a captain this season, finished second team all-district after a stellar season in net. Similar to the Lady Panthers, five teammates earned a spot on the all-district honorable mention team: senior Danny Zayas, senior Ali Mukweyi, sophomore Terry Torres, sophomore Rashaad Wallace and sophomore Efrain Lujan.
Wrestling – Panthers win regional championship, qualify seven wrestlers for state meet
In their fourth year of existence, the wrestling team had their best season.
In a shortened season, the Panthers outperformed expectations at regionals, earning a boys team regional championship over Lovejoy with 174.5 total points.
Seven wrestlers competed in the state meet and were able advance several qualifiers, with three competitors earning state medals.
Andreas Ugalde earned a fifth place medal at the state meet. Heading into the meet 28-0 in the 145-pound class, Ugalde lost to eventual state champion Jared Gallegos of Canyon Randall in an early round to settle into the consolation side of the bracket. With no semi-final, Ugalde wrestled for fifth place, where he dominated his competition 15-0.
Brandon Lee earned a state medal as well, finishing sixth in the 132-pound class. Other Panthers competing in the state meet include David Kline, who battled in the 138-pound class; Cain Brentnall, who faced off in the 195-pound class; Sam Hillis, who competed in the 170-pound class; and Anthony Scalise, who wrestled in the 185-pound weight class.
On the girls’ side, Emma Lozada earned a medal for the Lady Panthers, finishing third overall in the 215-pound class. Lozada ends the year 16-3 overall.
Coach Ryan DeLavergne was recognized as regional coach of the year.
Baseball – Young team wins three district games
The baseball team struggled in 2021 and failed to reach the playoffs.
They finished with a 10-16-2 record, including 3-11 against district opponents, placing them near the bottom of the standings. A couple of notable district wins included a 1-0 victory over Denison and 6-5 over Sherman.
Three players qualified for all-district honors. Sophomore pitcher Blake Lindsey and senior DH Logan Turner were selected to the all-district second team. Luke Tarby finished as an all-district honorable mention.
Softball – Young team builds for future
Despite fielding a very young team with a new coach, the Lady Panthers were able to showcase a lot of potential last spring, finishing 11-14-1 and sixth in the district with a 3-11 record.
Six players received all-district honors.
In her first season at PHS, freshman Hallie Day proved to be an integral part of the Lady Panthers success at the plate and in the field, earning a first team all-district selection.
Junior infielder Monica Armenta, freshman Destiny Madewell, freshman Laney Truitt and freshman Tristen Jones were selected to the all-district second team.
Junior Colleen Bunton earned an all-district honorable mention selection as an outfielder.
In addition to their work on the field, several Lady Panthers earned honors in the classroom on the academic all-district team, including Carleigh Deeds, Chloe Hill, Brynnlee Mayes, Brittni Askew, Haven Day, Hallie Day, Bunton, Truitt and Jones.
Golf- Smith, Jones lead way in team’s first year
Panthers’ golf ended their first full season as a program in the boys and girls district golf tournaments.
Princeton’s boys team finished with a total tournament score of 832.
Finishing at the top of the leaderboard was sophomore Landyn Smith, who shot a career-low 85 on day two for a tournament score of 177. Hunter Williams and Bryce Leon also saw improvement on day two, shooting six and 10 strokes better than the first round to finish 213 and 226, respectively.
The Lady Panthers also did well in the district tournament, finishing seventh overall with a total score of 939.
Leading the way for the Lady Panthers were Jessica Jones and Charlotte Davidson, who each shot their career-low. Jones placed tied for eighth individually and earned second-team all-district.
Track and Field – Champ finishes fourth in triple jump at state meet.
Gavin Champ competed in the triple jump at the 5A state track and field meet championships against eight of the best athletes in the state of Texas. He finished fourth (45’-09.50”), one spot off the podium.
Tennis – Princeton doubles team reaches district semi-finals
Following a long spring season, the tennis team entered the district championships hoping to advance to the regional championship.
The mixed doubles duo of senior Jamie Askew and senior Darrion Dotson had the most success, finishing fourth.
Through the first two rounds, Dotson and Askew proved themselves capable, advancing to the semifinals.
Football – Chandler leads football team to 4-6 record
In Ervin Chandler’s first season as head coach, Princeton finished with a 4-6 record, sixth in the district standings.
Despite missing the playoffs, the 2021 Panthers football team received several all-district honors.
Jacob Speer was the lone Princeton player to be named to the all-district first team. The junior offensive guard was a big factor in the Panther’s improved running performance. Their offense averaged 188.2 passing yards and 190 rushing yards per game en route to scoring 29.7 points per game.
Three Princeton athletes were selected to the all-district second team; wide receiver Gavin Champ, running back Junior Ombati and outside linebacker Billy Sanchez.
Volleyball – Lady Panthers miss playoffs for second consecutive season.
In Rachel Croley’s first year as coach, the Lady Panthers struggled as a young team, finishing 3-11 in district for sixth place. They finished 21-24 and had five players qualify for all-district teams.
Junior Rachel Sadler finished on the all-district first team. The junior outside hitter was great all-around with 185 kills, 15 blocks, 239 digs, 54 serving aces and 278 serve receives in 94 sets on the season.
Junior libero Amaya Malhas and senior middle blocker Brooklyn Purcella made the all-district second team. Malhas led the Lady Panthers defensively with 552 digs and 832 serve receives. Purcella finished with a team-high 76 blocks, 235 kills, 46 serving aces and 94 digs in 119 sets.
Senior setter Sabrina Brewer and sophomore outside hitter Leila Hooper finished on the all-district honorable mention team.
Cross Country – Leverton qualifies for state
Aubrey Leverton accomplished a first for Princeton High School, running in the UIL 5A state cross-country championship.
In the girls 5K state race, Leverton finished 101st out of 152 runners (20:02.10). She ran faster than the regional athletes she had faced, including Highland Park’s Ashley Goldman and Hallsville’s Addison Hatchett.
In the regional meet she finished 17th out of 169 competitors to advance.
For more stories like this, see the Dec. 30 edition of The Princeton Herald. Support your community newspaper for less than $40 a year.