The team culture played a big role in the success of Princeton High School during this field hockey season.
Coaches credited the team’s culture helped young players step up and continue battling in games, even if they had made mistakes.
That desire propelled the Little Tigers to a 14-4-1 overall record and a 10-1-1 finish in the Colonial Valley Conference.
“I think we had a successful season based on the fact that we had a lot of young players out on the field. We do not have a very large junior class. This year we only had one junior on our varsity team,” Princeton coach Heather Serverson said. “This season, half the the starting lineup was seniors and the other half was sophomores. We had players step up this season in special ways.”
This fall, the Little Tigers advanced to the semifinal round of the Mercer County Tournament and were defeated byThe Lawrenceville School, 4-1. Lawrenceville would go on to the capture the Mercer County title with a 1-0 shutout victory over Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in the tournament finale.
Princeton, in the 2019 NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament, also advanced to the semifinal round. Princeton was defeated by Lenape Regional High School, 12-3. Lenape won the Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional title with a 2-1 victory over Rancocas Valley Regional High School. Lenape was then defeated in the Group 4 state semifinals, 11-0, by powerful Eastern Regional High School, which eventuallywon the Group 4 state championship.
“This year, defensively we were pretty solid. We had a core on our defensive side and were very familiar with each other,” Serverson said. “Offensively, though we had some holes to fill this season from the mid-field and forward-line, I would have liked to see a more dynamic offense, but I can’t blame them for that because we had many players just coming off our JV squad and were able to perform for us at a satisfactory level on varsity.”
For next year, Princeton will be without senior Grace Cooke as goalkeeper and senior Morgan Swanke at forward. Cooke collected 100 saves and Swanke produced 17 goals in 2019.
“I have every confidence in the returning players to fill the roles of Grace Cooke and Morgan Swanke. We will know more as we come out of this offseason,” Serverson said. “I think our next-in-line goalkeeper Francesca deFaria has been doing a great job. I think she is ready to step up and fill Cooke’s shoes. Swanke, this year, was kind of a surprise. I originally had her at mid-field and moved her up to forward this year.”
The Little Tigers had a total of nine seniors on the 2019 team, five of whom were starters during the season.
“I think we already lean on sophomore Grace Rebak; she is one of our solid underclassmen on the field. She has been a starter every game since her freshman year. We lean on her defensively and she has become quite the leader on the field,” Severson said. “I look forward to having her for two more seasons. I think in the mid-field look to sophomore Olivia Weir, she was injured for a good portion of the season, this year, but has varsity experience. Junior Shoshana Henderson will be leaned on, as well, next year. She is going to be working hard this offseason.”
Freshman Erin Cooke is another player Serverson said she hopes steps up to the plate.
“This offseason, I hope our team works on familiarity. You can have field full of talented players out there but if they are not familiar with each other we are not going to be successful,” Severson said. “We really focus on playing together in pickup leagues during the offseason, so that come preseason next year we do not have to work on that.”
This offseason is going to be crucial, according to Serverson.
“This is going to be a very young group at the same time a very seasoned and more experience group, than other players at the same age on a different team. I am excited about what this team can do,” Serverson said. “I think we are going to be successful as along as we play together this offseason.”