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Vol. LXV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
DEVELOPING SITUATION: Princeton High field hockey star Emilia Lopez-Ona races up the field in recent action. In just her second year playing the sport, sophomore Lopez-Ona has developed into a star for the Little Tigers. Last Friday, she scored a goal as sixth-seeded PHS edged No. 11 Princeton Day School 2-1 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. PHS, now 10-4, was slated to play at No. 3 Lawrenceville on October 25 in the MCT quarterfinals with the victor advancing to the semis on October 27.

Lopez-Ona Shows Her Rapid Development As PHS Field Hockey Wins County Opener

Bill Alden

Emilia Lopez-Ona has proven to be a quick study when it comes to field hockey.

Having taken up the game when she entered Princeton High last fall, the sophomore has emerged as a star for the Little Tigers.

Lopez-Ona, who starred for the PHS girls’ lacrosse team last spring, credits her teammates with helping her pick up field hockey.

“I started as a freshman, a lot of it came from the team support,” said Lopez-Ona.

“It is just a fun sport; it is one of those sports where there is a lot of athleticism. I think that is one of our team’s strengths.”

The development of Lopez-Ona mirrors the rapid progress made by a young PHS squad that has turned heads this fall.

“At the beginning of the season, we had a lot of young talent,” said Lopez-Ona, reflecting on the team that starts three freshmen. “I think up to this point, it has been dramatic growth.”

Last week, PHS showed how much it has grown this fall, edging Hightstown 2-1 on October 17 to clinch the CVC Valley Division crown and then nipping Princeton Day School 2-1 last Friday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

In the MCT win over 11th-seeded PDS, Lopez-Ona helped the sixth-seeded Little Tigers draw first blood, scoring the initial goal of the contest with 7:23 left in the first half.

“Sydney Watts was taking it in and she had a great pass over to me,” said Lopez-Ona, recalling the tally that helped PHS improve to 10-4. “I saw the hole, there was a gap between defenders.”

PHS doubled its lead at the end of the half as Watts scored off a penalty corner.

“Coming into halftime, that really pumped everyone up,” said Lopez-Ona, who has had a goal or an assist in five straight games. “It was a great way to come out of the first half; it kept everyone’s spirits up.”

In the second half, PHS showed some character, fighting off a spirited comeback by PDS, who got a goal from Andrea Jenkins and made several forays into the Little Tigers’ crease area.

Lopez-Ona played a big role in holding the Panthers at bay as she had the defensive assignment on the speedy Jenkins.

“I was marking her the whole time; it was a tough job,” said Lopez-Ona. “She has some great skills. Once it gets to a one-goal game, it can go either way.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson appreciates all that Lopez-Ona brings to the table for the Little Tigers.

“She will do whatever it takes offensively or defensively to get the job done,” said Serverson, whose team was slated to play at No. 3 Lawrenceville on October 25 in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on October 27.

“She is feisty, she never runs out of energy and she is faster than fast. It is only her second year of field hockey and I am beyond amazed. I don’t even know the right word for her; she is just fantastic in a lot of different ways.”

Serverson is amazed by how far her young squad has come this fall collectively.

“I knew that we had a great group of girls during the preseason,” said Serverson.

“I don’t think I could have anticipated how well they have come together. Every single player on the field has improved since day one and that doesn’t always happen. That is a testament to their work ethic and their ability to come together as a group which is sometimes more important than having the skills.”

In the victory over PDS, the Little Tigers showed some maturity to go with their chemistry.

“They kept their composure, they played their game,” said Serverson, reflecting on her team’s effort in the win.

“They did everything right. Obviously there were things that they could improve on. They did what they needed to do and got the job done.”

PHS senior goalie Tobi Afran got the job done for Serverson, making some big stops on PDS’s top gun Jenkins.

“Tobi came up with some awesome saves; I am so happy with the way she played today,” said Serverson.

“She really held her own back there and kept her composure. That could not have been easy for her because she knows what a great player Andrea is and she was expecting it so she really came up big for us today.”

In Serverson’s view, her team’s upbeat mentality has helped it come up big.

“They are always positive they are always ready to practice hard and play hard,” said Serverson. “It is just a great group. I am excited for the next few years.”

Lopez-Ona is excited about this year’s homestretch. “Everyone’s spirits are high right now,” said Lopez-Ona.

“I think we can go pretty far right now; everyone is pumped up for the rest of the tournament. I think the underclassmen push the upperclassmen and I think the upperclassmen push the underclassmen. It is a really well balanced, well rounded team.”

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