PRINCETON: Panthers still perfect


Junior Rebecca Kuzmicz and the Princeton Day School defense have helped the Panthers to a 10-0 start this season.

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Rebecca Kuzmicz has seen the names change from year to year, but the results stay the same for the Princeton Day School girls soccer program.
Kuzmicz was a freshman newcomer in 2014 when her older sisters helped the Panthers to the first of two straight state Prep B championships. A year earlier, the Panthers were Mercer County Tournament champions.
The roster changes each year, but the wins keep coming. The current edition of the Panthers improved to 10-0 this season with a 3-0 win over the Hill School on Wednesday.
“We have generally our core from last year,” said Kuzmicz, a junior who plays center back. “We also have some great additions like Brie (Astbury) and Ariana (Jones). I think they are helping out a lot. Overall, I think we are pretty deep. We can always rely on our subs on our bench and it is never a letdown whenever anyone is coming in off the bench.”
In 10 games this season, the Panthers have outscored the opposition, 33-4, and recorded seven shutouts. The combination of returning players and some talented newcomers has kept the level of success high for PDS.
“I think it is our leadership on the field,” Kuzmicz said of the program’s sustained success. “The upperclassmen who have been here set a great example for the underclassmen and that carries through. And I think our coaching staff is excellent. They push us beyond our comfort zones and make sure we are giving 110 percent every day.”
The 10-0 start this season gives the Panthers a 57-7-5 mark since the start of the 2013 season. It’s been quite a run for a group that approaches each contest one at a time and let’s the results take care of themselves.
“We have a lot of the core from last year, but you have different players stepping up this year,” said PDS coach Patrick Trombetta, whose team was scheduled to face Wardlaw-Hartridge on Thursday. “Some of the girls played more of a complementary role last year are being more active now and are in a primary role this season.
“Overall, we have some talent spread in our different roles on the field with our defense, midfield and up top. And we have different players showing up each game. Allison (Klei) finished on a nice header today. That second goal was big coming in the second half when we were only up by one goal. She was there to finish that and we feel pretty good with a two goal lead.”
Klei, Jones and Damali Simon-Ponte scored goals in the win over Hill, backing the shutout goalkeeping of Grace Barbara, who finished with five saves. The defense, led by Madison Coyne and Kuzmicz in front of Barbara, makes it tough on the opposition each time out.
“Every game poses a different challenge but we’re always up to it,” Kuzmicz said. “We’re so strong back there that we know what is coming and we all stay positive. I think it works its way up on through. An Grace is our rock back there.
“Our main goal is to just keep working hard and looking at what we can work on. We want to give our best effort every game.”
That attitude has been passed down through the years from the upperclassmen. And while those who started the successful run are no longer around, their presence is still felt.
“I think they set a good example for us,” Kuzmicz said. “Going through we knew we were losing a lot. They had seven in their class that we lost. But the rising senior and rising upperclassmen really stepped up and that has carried on through.”
The defense doesn’t allow many goals and the offense is balanced. Simon-Ponte leads the team with nine goals this season, while Astbury has six. Klei and Brooke Smukler have scored four goals apiece.
“We have a lot of balance,” Trombetta said. “On defense, Madison Coyne is back there with Rebecca. As center backs they do a great job back there and then we have one of the best netminders in the area behind them. Rebecca and Madison work well as a tandem back there.” 