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Vol. LXV, No. 38
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
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HIGH WATTAGE: Princeton High field hockey player Sydney Watts clears the ball in recent action. With junior Watts providing leadership and skill at the sweeper position, PHS has produced a 4-2 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the right track when they play at Robbinsville on September 22 and host WW/P-S on September 26.

With Watts Providing Voice, Skill at Sweeper; PHS Field Hockey Showing Lots of Promise

Bill Alden

For Sydney Watts, moving to defense this season for the Princeton High field hockey team was a matter of helping the squad find its voice.

“I feel like the team finds a lot of energy with a lot of talking on the field and I am a big talker and a big communicator,” said Watts, a junior who has taken over the sweeper role in the middle of the PHS defense after playing primarily midfield in her first two years with the team. “I was just trying to pick it up so I moved back.”

Last Monday against visiting Hopewell Valley, Watts let her actions speak along with her words, banging in a first half goal to give the Little Tigers a 1-0 lead.

“It was our first corner of the game and we tried our hardest to score a goal,” recalled Watts, who triggered the corner and then banged home the rebound of a shot by Emilia Lopez-Ona.

“It was just the luck of the shot. I positioned myself the way I have been told to position myself after inserting the ball. It was a just a great play by Emilia.”

Unfortunately, PHS didn’t make enough great plays the rest of the afternoon as it fell 3-1 to the undefeated Bulldogs.

In Watts’s view, the defeat could prove to be a blessing in disguise. “We tried our hardest and we know things to improve on and from now on we are just going to take every game as it goes,” said Watts, reflecting on the defeat that dropped PHS to 4-2.

“I think as the season goes on we are going to face some hard teams so this is a great challenge. I think we stuck in it as best we could.”

Watts is up for the challenge of doing whatever PHS needs her to do on the field.

“On my club team I play all over — midfield, offense and defense so I understand the game pretty well,” added Watts, who plays for the Impact program in North Caldwell. “Whatever my coach wants me to do, I will do it.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson appreciates all the things that Watts does for the Little Tigers.

“Sydney is probably one of the most diverse players I have ever coached; she can do anything,” said Serverson.

“It is just difficult because sometimes I think she feels like she has to do it all. Sometimes the team looks for her to do more than she should; we have got to supplement her.”

A frustrated Serverson acknowledged that Watts didn’t get much help in the loss to HoVal.

“It wasn’t our best effort and I think that is what is most upsetting,” said Serverson, whose team was outshot 20-9 on the afternoon.

“If we had played our best and still lost the game I would be OK with it but we didn’t play our best. We had breakdowns in basic fundamental pieces of the game. I am hoping that the quality team I have seen to this point comes back.”

The Little Tigers did get a quality effort from senior goalie Tobi Afran, who made 15 saves to keep the game close.

“Tobi hasn’t had that many shots on her so she held up,” added Serverson. “It is difficult as a goalie if you don’t get a lot of shots and all of a sudden you are in this game where it is rapid fire at you. I thought she did a great job but you can only do so much.”

Sophomore Lopez-Ona did a lot for PHS as she contributed at both ends of the field.

“We had her marking Colby [HoVal star Colby Hussong] and I think she did a good job,” said Serverson.

“It is not a position she is used to playing; she came from one of the side middie spots and we forced her into the middle with Jackie [Chmiel] having a concussion. She comes back on defense; she is able to distribute the ball on offense. She does exactly what we want her to do; we just couldn’t connect with the forwards today.”

As the season goes on, Serverson is confident her team will be making plenty of connections.

“I think the overall quality of the team has gotten better; each year we are getting better,” said Serverson.

“We have three freshmen and two sophomores in our starting lineup. We have a lot of good players; it is just that they haven’t had a lot of experience together. They are very coachable but it is the youngest team of any of the groups I have had since I got here. It has the most potential for the future.”

Watts, for her part, sees potential for some good things this fall. “We are a really young team so I think it is a growing year,” said Watts.

“My freshman year was our first time even going to states in 13 years. Now we have gone the past two years. As a junior, I feel like we have a chance to go to states and be good competition in the states.”

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