NDHS students expressed excitement for the new turf field. As Ken Jennings, Notre Dame High School president, said, "Students who are involved with the PDA are serious about their future as soccer players." Mary Stadnyk photo
NDHS students expressed excitement for the new turf field. As Ken Jennings, Notre Dame High School president, said, "Students who are involved with the PDA are serious about their future as soccer players." Mary Stadnyk photo

The April 26 groundbreaking of a new turf field at Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, ushered in both a new partnership and added opportunities for college-bound athletes.

Joining forces with the Players Development Academy – a Somerset-based soccer club geared toward year-round soccer training and competitive play – NDHS will add a second turf field on its campus, complementing its newly re-turfed field at its current Monsignor Nolan Stadium.

“This strategic partnership will be outstanding for the Notre Dame community and PDA,” said Ken Jennings, Notre Dame High School president. “Student athletes will have a high-caliber field to play on. We see the new field as an added means for showcasing our campus to prospective school families ... [and] a great benefit to Notre Dame’s current and future athletes.”

Among those present for the groundbreaking with Jennings were Joanna Barlow, NDHS principal; Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, diocesan superintendent of Catholic education; James Angiolino, PDA coach and assistant varsity coach for boys’ soccer team at NDHS, and Richard Smith, chairman of the NDHS board of governors.

The new field will be the home of the PDA Hibernians under the leadership of technical director Brian Grazier as well as the Notre Dame Boys and Girls Soccer Teams and Boys Lacrosse Team, with the intention of having the field completed in time for the 2021 fall soccer season.

“PDA is excited to take this next step with Notre Dame High School,” Grazier stated. “We look forward to positively impacting the community with our collaboration moving forward.” Upon the completion of the project at Notre Dame, PDA will have a home in Central New Jersey to go along with their facilities in the north, south and along the Jersey shore.

“This is a very natural relationship to form between [our] two entities,” Jennings affirmed. “There are more than 15 soccer players, both varsity and junior varsity, who also play for the PDA. Students who are involved with the PDA are serious about their future as soccer players, [and] looking for college scholarships.”

When the new field is completed, Notre Dame will have two state-of-the-art turf facilities. “The partnership and project are great for Notre Dame Athletics,” said Notre Dame Athletic Director Rich Roche. “With two turf fields, we will lose fewer games due to weather. Spreading out the wear and tear on both fields could extend the life of the turf in both facilities.”

The genesis of the project came in a discussion that Roche had with former ND Soccer Coach, Dan Donigan, regarding his desire to add a second turf field to Notre Dame’s athletic facilities in 2019. “Dan Donigan deserves a lot of credit when it comes to the new field,” Roche stated. “It was Dan’s relationship with PDA that got the process off the ground.

Jennings acknowledged the tremendous support the project received from the ND Board of Governors, the ND leadership team, the Diocese of Trenton and the leadership team at PDA, “who all worked tirelessly to make this happen.”

Danny Bensch, NDHS junior and avid soccer player for both the school and the PDA, hopes to continue playing soccer in college. “[Soccer] is a normal part of my day,” he said, acknowledging the friendships he has enjoyed through the sport, and the lessons and discipline it has taught him. “PDA is a bridge that provides guidance and resources that will be helpful if I want to play in college.” 

Angiolino also expressed enthusiasm. “To see this collaboration between ND and PDA is a dream come true,” he said. “It will benefit both Notre Dame and PDA in helping to build something great in the soccer community.”