Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 45
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer senior star Erin Cook, far right, celebrates with her teammates after scoring on a free kick in overtime last Sunday to give top-seeded PDS a 2-1 win over No. 3 Montclair Kimberley Academy in the state Prep B championship game.

Cook’s Free Kicks Make the Difference as PDS Girls’ Soccer Wins Prep B Title

Bill Alden

Erin Cook’s heady play at sweeper has been a major strength of the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team this fall.

But after suffering a concussion in September, Cook was precluded from heading the ball for the rest of the season by her doctors.

As a result, Cook honed her skills on set pieces, taking over the duties for free kicks and corner kicks for the Panthers.

That work paid huge dividends last Sunday when No. 1 PDS hosted No. 3 Montclair Kimberley Academy in the state Prep B championship game.

In the first half, Cook curled a 30-yard free kick into the top corner of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead with 5:49 left in the half.

After Montclair Kimberley scored a goal with 4:44 left in regulation to force overtime, Cook struck again.

With seconds remaining in the first overtime session, Montclair Kimberley was called for a foul and Cook quickly set up for a free kick from about 25 yards out. After a momentary stoppage of play to reset the clock, Cook rushed a kick which flew over the Cougar goalie and won the title.

Cook’s sensational volley set off a raucous on-field celebration with the PDS players hugging and then falling over each other on the field turf at Smoyer Field.

Coming into the afternoon, Cook was more focused on making the most of her last game for PDS than emerging as the hero.

“We all came out knowing this was our last game for sure,” said Cook, who had her right knee wrapped in an ice bag after the win.

“Cammie [Linville] and me as the seniors wanted to give it our all. We told the girls to leave it all on the field and come out hard. We knew this was a hard team to play. Our coaches had scouted them. We knew what we had to do and we gave it our all. I am really proud of everybody.”

Cook was particularly proud of the team’s defensive effort. “We knew No. 7 (Jessica Gonzalez) was good and we had Katie Gibson mark her the whole game,” said Cook.

“We just stuck with our marks really well; the communication and everything was great.”

When the game went into overtime, Cook and her teammates didn’t feel so great.

“We were definitely worried because we came out so hard in the first half,” recalled Cook.

“Right as we had to go into OT, we knew we could make one mistake in a second and lose it all or we could have one break and just get it done in a minute.”

The senior star was ready to come through when PDS got its break in the waning seconds of the first extra session.

“Cammie Linville used to take the free kicks in the offensive and the right side corners,” explained Cook, whose concussion this season was the fourth of her soccer career.

“I would go in the box for the corners but since I can’t head any more, they had me take all the corner kicks and free kicks. I have done so many, taking so many in each game and practice. I have improved and gotten better at placing them.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta is impressed by Cook’s prowess. “I can’t say enough about Erin, our senior captain, stepping up on those two free kicks,” said a beaming Trombetta. “They were beautifully placed, she steps up in the big games.”

Trombetta was proud of how his relatively inexperienced team handled the pressure of a state title game.

“It is unbelievable because we have only two seniors,” said Trombetta, whose team finished the season with a 15-5 record.

“It says a lot; we have nine sophomores on the team and each one of them stepped up today. This was a game they could have easily rolled over, losing that momentum in OT. They came back and did a fantastic job.”

Those two seniors, Cook and Linville, did a great job of setting a winning tone for the Panthers.

“A lot of it goes to the leadership of Cammie and Erin,” added Trombetta.

“They took them under their wings this year and did a tremendous job. The team chemistry was great; all the girls contributed.”

In Trombetta’s view, that depth set the Panthers apart in their championship fall.

“If you look at our team, 16 girls have found the back of the net this season,” said Trombetta.

“It’s not a team where our opponents can come in and key on one or two players because we have a number of players who can win the game for us.”

But it took more than talent for PDS to develop into a force. “I think to be honest with you, we were flying under the radar this year,” said Trombetta.

“We were 4-3 and a lot of teams weren’t really looking at us. We didn’t practice one day, we just sat down and had a meeting and talked about the direction that we wanted to see things going. Everybody got on board.”

Cook, for her part, certainly enjoyed the final stop on PDS’ title ride. “It’s amazing, it is such a great way to win,” said Cook reflecting on Sunday’s thrilling triumph.

“I think it shows with the way everyone ran out on the field, even the fans. We had such great support; it is so exciting for everybody. We worked so hard to get there.”

And PDS can be thankful for the head injury which led Cook to work on developing the knack for free kicks that prompted all the excitement last Sunday.

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