Princeton girls’ soccer will lean on experience this season

Valerie Rodriguez (center) speaking with players during practice on July 31.

The Princeton High School girls’ soccer team is gearing up to make waves for the 2019 scholastic season.

The team is coming off of a 2018 season that produced a 9-7-2 overall record and a 4-1 record in the Colonial Valley Conference.

“Every year our mission is really focusing on the team and how we can work on our passing and possession game to build the point of attack together. We are not always that fast break team,” said Valerie Rodriguez, head coach of the Little Tigers. “We will want to make certain we are numbers up and behind the ball for defense. We look at the different formations that best fit the players retuning so obviously that is in the works because it is too early to know exactly what we are looking at.”

Rodriguez explained that the team has a strong group of senior players who will be leaders this coming fall.

“I have four captains this year. Two are returning captains and two are new captains,” Rodriguez said. “The leadership I am looking to this year should really bring us to the level of team chemistry and commitment we are looking for.”

She said experience this year is everything.

“These girls have been together since freshman year. They feel that this is their time and have the hunger,” Rodriguez said. “We are looking at who is healthy and who is not. Everyone on the team is truly important to our success.”

During the 2018 season, the Little Tigers advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Mercer County Tournament where they lost to Allentown High School, 1-0. Allentown would go on to lose in the tournament final, 3-0, to the Pennington School.

For the 2018 NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament, Princeton reached the quarterfinal round again, where it lost to Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 4-0, which went on to win the state sectional championship with a 2-1 triumph over Old Bridge High School.

Hunterdon Cenrtal then fell, 2-1, in the Group 4 state semifinals to the eventual state champion, Eastern Regional High School.

Rodriguez said she wants Princeton to grow on what it did in the 2018 season.

“Last year, I think we surprised ourselves in moments and we surprised others in moments. We were really successful last year, especially getting to where we did in the state tournament,” she said. “We really competed against some really good team’s like Allentown for example. We gave them a run for their money a couple times. I think our girls are ready this year.”

She reported that the team will be stacked with goalkeepers this season. Senior goalkeeper Shaylah Marciano will play a big role, along with senior goalkeeper Caroline Ealy.

Senior forward Morgan Beamer and senior mid-fielder Kirin Kunukkasseril add to the mix with experience and an offensive presence.

Junior midfielder Vanessa Ponce, junior defender Greta Bush and senior defender Lauren Rougas are also part of the exciting talent Rodriguez sees on her team.

“This is the most hands off I have been this summer. The leadership has kept this summer rolling,” Rodriquez said. “They have been here since June through all of July and now entering August. We want to get the wrinkles out with these early practices.”

Marciano said that the Little Tigers are focused on finishing the ball this season.

“We really have to be focused on putting the ball away with our forward line. Defensively we are extremely solid and the mid-field we are solid,” Marciano said. “It is just the forward line; we are really trying to convert goals this year.”

She said that the team has really good chemistry and that the seniors really want to end this season off with a bang.

Rougas explained that her team will look to expand on the results of the 2018 season.

“I think this upcoming squad worked really hard in the offseason. Especially since we have a couple players gone through injury many of our returners are set to step up,” she said. “Last year, was a really good year defensively. I feel our defense is going to be even stronger this year compared to last season.”

Kunukkasseril is another senor who the Little Tigers will count on.

“I think we still have to look at the positives offensively. We all need to work and this is the time for others to step up for this season,” Kunukkasseril said. “We are strong at every position. Once we get to know each other more, everything will flow together. We have the talent to go far.”

During this season the Tigers are looking to take one step at a time with each game.

“If we take care of the details, those championship games tend to take care of themselves,” Rodriquez said.