Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 44
 
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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(Photo by Tim Pitts)
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IN THE SWING: Hun School field hockey star Nicolette Natale takes a big swing in action earlier this season. Last week, senior co-captain and star defender Natale helped the 10th-seeded Raiders pull two upsets on the way to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Hun’s improbable run ended when they fell to No. 3 and eventual champion Robbinsville 2-1 last Thursday in the semis. The Raiders are hoping to pull some more surprises in the state Prep A tournament. Third-seeded Hun plays at No. 2 Lawrenceville on November 3 in the state Prep A semifinals with the winner advancing to the title game slated for November 7.

Senior Star Natale Spearheads Defensive Effort as Hun Field Hockey Makes MCT Semifinals

Bill Alden

As the most experienced defender on the back line for the Hun School field hockey team, Nicolette Natale knows that she has to speak up on the field.

“I see the whole field basically for the team so I like to talk to my two sides and make sure they know who is behind them,” said senior co-captain Natale. “I tell them who is where, where to mark up, and how to step up to the ball.”

Getting seeded 10th in the Mercer County Tournament, Natale and her teammates stepped up and made quite a statement as the competition unfolded.

In the opening round of the tourney, the Raiders traveled to one end of the county and edged No. 7 Hightstown 1-0.

Days later, Hun traveled across town and pulled the biggest upset of the tournament, knocking off No. 2 PDS 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals.

Last Thursday in the MCT semis, the Raiders looked to pull off another shocker as they faced third-seeded Robbinsville, who had routed Steinert 6-0 in the quarters.

Despite fighting the high-flying Ravens tooth-and-nail, Hun saw its Cinderella run come to an end as it fell 2-1.

In reflecting on the loss, Natale believed that Hun left it all on the field. “We really stepped it up,” said Natale.

“They are an awesome team; clearly ranked higher than us. We came together tonight and played as a team. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Natale was particularly proud of how the Raiders responded after falling behind 1-0 to the Ravens, who ended up winning the title when they beat top-seeded Hopewell Valley 2-0 in the championship game.

“I thought we were going to put our heads down and just let them beat us up,” said Natale.

“We really stepped it up and we wanted to fight back. The whole team morale was boosted by the goal. We came back ready for the second half and trying to score again.”

The Hun defense had to pull out all stops to keep the Ravens from matching their usual output.

“When they just keep coming, you have to be ready for anything,” recalled Natale. “They were playing really nice through balls; it is pretty hard to defend. We stuck together as a unit and we tried not to let them through.”

Natale’s classmate, goalie Kara Kettelkamp, sparkled as she repelled shot after shot in making 13 saves, several of the point-blank variety.

“Kara played an awesome game, she stuck together and she didn’t ever let her head down,” said Natale.

“We were failing her at one point trying to get those balls out but she did an awesome job. She was left and right all over the cage.”

For Natale and the Raiders, making their improbable run to the county semis was awesome.

“We were real fired up after PDS; none of us expected to make it this far,” said Natale. “We really just come every game and try to play our best. We were a little shocked that we were here.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk was fired up by the way her players responded in the semifinal clash against Robbinsville.

“I thought we played a beautiful game,” said Quirk, who got a goal from Stefanie Fox as her team moved to 7-8-1 with the setback. “They were beating teams by five or six goals a game.”

Quirk beamed when she reflected on the game she got from Kettelkamp in the loss to Robbinsville. “Kara was amazing; she played the game of her life,” asserted Quirk.

In Quirk’s view, the Hun defense gets a lot of life from the battle-tested Natale.

“Nicolette plays a tremendous role, she is a leader and a role model,” added Quirk.

“She tells them go left, go right. Robbinsville was a little bit more skilled than we were; they have a little bit more experience than us in moving the ball. Nicole hung in there; telling everyone what to do.”

Hun is hoping to “hang in” in another tournament as the third-seeded Raiders play at No. 2 Lawrenceville on November 3 in the state Prep A semifinals.

“I think we are playing better hockey and I just hope we can put the ball in the cage,” said Quirk. “The win over PDS was special. Even though we didn’t win here, I think it was a moral victory.”

Natale, for her part, thinks Hun can produce some more special tournament moments as the team lives up to its tradition of finishing strong.

“In the beginning it is always a little rocky and no one knows where we are headed,” said Natale.

“We always peak at the right moment and that’s what gets us here. States is going to be a lot of fun. We see Lawrenceville first and they are another very good team. We are on a high. We all know what is expected of us. I think we can come out and definitely keep it a close game like this one was.”

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