The Princeton High School field hockey team has high hopes for success in the upcoming season.
Coaches and players agreed that the squad can produce victories with communication and team chemistry.
“We are trying to fit the puzzle together as usual. Who are the best players and how can we best fit together as a quality team moving forward,” said Princeton’s coach, Heather Serverson. “We are looking to improve upon our scoring ability from last season. I have the confidence that we will be able to do just as well if not better than last season depending on how we come together as a team.”
The team comes off a 2018 season that produced a 15-2 overall record and a 5-0 log in the Colonial Valley Conference.
The Little Tigers went to the semifinal round of the Mercer County Tournament and were defeated by the Princeton Day School, 3-0. Princeton Day would go on to the lose in the Mercer County Tournament final to the Lawrenceville School, 1-0.
In the 2018 NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament, Princeton advanced to the semifinal round where the Little Tigers were defeated by Rancocas Valley Regional High School, 3-2.
Rancocas Valley would go on to win the state sectional title when it defeated Jackson Memorial High School, 4-0, in the final. Rancocas Valley was then eliminated in the Group 4 state semifinals, 10-0, by the eventual state champion, Eastern Regional High School.
“Our style is that we like to let the ball do the work. We really like to get the ball moving quickly and behind the defense,” Serverson said. “We try to get the scoring opportunities before team’s defenses recover, along with a small passing game in between.”
The team lost nine seniors from last season, which included Mariana Lopez-Ona, who scored a team-high 22 goals in 2018.
“Hopefully we will have rising players coming through the ranks and can fill in these spots for us. We have some big shoes to fill having lost Mariana down the middle,” Serverson said. “Ava Greene, Grace Cooke and Eleanor Wilkinson are the three returning varsity players that got a lot of playing time last year for us. I am looking to those three as key returners for this season and are captains for this year’s team. They have been great for leadership on and off the field.”
She said preseason will be huge for the Little Tigers.
“We really have to figure what best fits our strengths together in the right way as a team. We are really hoping to use speed as a part of our game this year,” Serverson said. “This time is crucial we had so many seniors last year that we did not have a chance to season some of the younger players, so preseason is so important for us to learn how to play well with each other, learning each others tendencies and skills are.”
Senior goalkeeper Grace Cooke is returning to protect the net for the Little Tigers. Last season she recorded 54 saves.
“I think defensively we are kind of in a transition year a little bit. We have one person returning from our starting line Grace Rebak. I think we have a lot of talent though and are super talented,” she said. “Everyone is working hard I think we will have a great season.”
Cooke said she worked on communication with defenders this offseason and her flexibility.
“Preseason is not only good for our skills; it is good for team bonding. People bond over getting super hot and sweaty,” she said.
Junior Shoshana Henderson produced three goals last season for the Little Tigers and said offensively she see the team having a lot of talent.
“Four the last four years we have had Mariana and the rest of last year’s graduating seniors. We have learned a lot from them,” she said. “We are ready to fill the roles from all of the seniors that graduated. I think we will have a great offensive year.”
Henderson said what will be key for this team is knowing where their teammates are on the field and where the passes will be.
“I think we are going to have a great year. We are a younger squad now, but have been working all summer together and improving,” she said.
Henderson said the team wants to maintain the skill level and chemistry they had from last season.”
“I think we really have some skilled players, some that were not getting as much playing time last season on varsity and some coming up from the JV level. We are really looking forward to playing on the strengths,” Serverson said. “I think we can do a really great job as a unit if we play together.”
Princeton with face off against Hopewell Valley Central High School for the first game of the preseason on Aug. 28 at Hopewell Valley. The game is slated for 3:45 p.m.