It has become a summer tradition for Princeton High boys’ soccer alums to meet up when they are back in town for some spirited pick-up games and camaraderie.
“Over the summer whenever we are home, we will always get together and have a couple of beers and kick around,” said former PHS soccer standout Chase Ealy ’15. “We hang out and get to see each other again.”
But with the COVID-19 limiting field availability, Ealy and his buddies decided to enter a team in the Mercer County Amateur Master Soccer League (MCAMSL).
“We were having a really hard time finding somewhere to play casually so we said ‘you know what, this league already exists, why don’t we see if we can play in the league,’” said Ealy of the league which plays at Mercer County Park.
“A bunch of Princeton boys have always played in the league on other teams but this year I said we have enough guys that we could have a Princeton team. As we reached out to people, they were saying yes.”
Forming a squad, the Princeton Wanderers, the PHS alums got a spot in the MCAMSL men’s Open Division which featured teams from West Windsor-Plainsboro, Lawrence, Bordentown, and Florence as well as sides called Barcelona FC and the Young Guns including players from a mix of schools.
“We know these guys from our high school days and our college days,” said Ealy, the manager of the Wanderers. “It is always fun, the mentality is right.”
After playing against the Young Guns on August 3, Ealy was all smiles even though the Wanderers trailed 2-0 before the game was postponed at halftime due to thunderstorms.
“It is great to be out here, it is competitive,” said Ealy, a defender/midfielder. “We want to compete out here and we want to win games but ultimately we are out here to enjoy each other’s company again and play ball. Even when it is competitive in there, we are still having a couple of laughs.”
With a roster including such former PHS standouts as Gustavo Vega, Lido Guzman, Axel Galeano, Seb Ratzan, Alex Ratzan, Alec Korsah, Atticus Lynch, Rueben Morales, Nick Kapp, Kyle Brady, Henry Dobbs-Allsopp, and current Tiger star Nick Petruso, the squad has a comfort level on the pitch.
“We know what to expect of each other because we all played together,” said Ealy.
“But I know if I get tired I can tell whoever to come on the field for me. That is the real nature of this league and we are all enjoying it.”
With the Wanderers ending up going 2-3-1 in regular season action and then falling 2-0 to Bordentown in the quarterfinals in their debut campaign, Ealy is hoping that the squad will be an annual fixture in the MCAMSL.
“We would love to keep playing on the league,” said Ealy, who played college soccer at Rider and Montclair State.
“One of the things that made me really happy about this team is the young guys who are getting out here this year like Seb Ratzan and Atticus Lynch. As guys get older and we can’t make it one year, we can tell Seb, you are in charge of the Wanderers this year. It is a nice thing we can pass on.”
In Ealy’s view, though, the nicest thing about joining the league was the chance to reconnect with former PHS teammates.
“After this we will get together and we will have some food; it is that really great atmosphere again that a lot of the guys miss,” said Ealy.
“You have that bond at PHS. All of us are good soccer players. We have played everywhere in many different places all over the world but I have never had as much fun playing soccer as I did at PHS. I think a lot of these guys would agree. That bond and that culture is something you want back. You want to play with these guys again. That is what makes this special.”