(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
DOUBLE FEATURE: Princeton High star midfielder Hannah Deming, left, and standout defender Carly Edgcomb work a free kick in action last fall. The strong play of Deming and Edgcomb has helped spark PHS to a 4-0-1 start as the team rebounds from a disappointing 4-11 campaign in 2005.
Laughs filled the air along with the thuds of booted balls last Thursday at Valley Road field as the Princeton High girls soccer team warmed up for its clash with WW/P-N.
The PHS players had plenty of reason to enjoy being on the pitch together as they entered the afternoon with a 4-0 record, coming on the heels of a disappointing 4-11 mark in 2005.
There were more cheers and chuckles from the Little Tigers as they took a 1-0 lead when freshman star Emma Karp took a Hannah Davis header and deftly dribbled around the WW/P-N goalie and drilled the ball into the back of the net.
Late in the second half, the PHS smiles turned to frowns as WW/P-N scored a goal with 4:55 left in regulation.
The game went into overtime and the Little Tigers didn't lose their spirit as they jumped up and down in unison in their final team huddle before the start of the extra session.
During overtime, the PHS reserves stood as one, cheering on their teammates, urging them to break the tie. While the game ultimately ended in a 1-1 stalemate, the PHS players congratulated each other on their solid effort.
Afterward, PHS head coach Greg Hand smiled as he reflected on his team's performance and the lessons it learned as it continues to develop.
"We played fairly well," said Hand. "We have to work on keeping composure when things get a little hectic. We need to try to control the dynamics of the game. We had some decent opportunities in front of the net."
PHS has been getting some dynamic play from sophomore striker Davis, who is back at full speed after being sidelined most of last season with a leg injury.
"She's an incredibly hard worker," said Hand."She's really starting to develop the composure combined with the intensity we need at forward."
Hand is also pleased with the intensity he is getting up front from his precocious freshmen Karp and Chantal Celestin. "I think as long as they keep working as hard as they have, they will develop a real understanding," explained Hand. "Their communication will be quicker, both verbal and non-verbal."
In the center of the defense, senior Merle Redding and sophomore Carly Edgcomb appear to have already developed that kind of communication.
"The big challenge for us is to provide cover and respond quickly to the changing situation," added Hand, crediting Redding and Edgcomb with spearheading a PHS defense that only surrendered three goals in its first five outings. "I think we had a better game in that respect today than we've had all season."
Although his team is off to a 4-0-1 start, Hand knows there is plenty of room for improvement. "Today we didn't do particularly well with developing the team concept," acknowledged Hand. "We have to execute better; a lot of that has to do with composure and envisioning things a few passes ahead."
Hand envisions some good things ahead for his improving side. "They know they have a lot of potential," said Hand, whose team plays Hopewell Valley on September 28 at Mercer County Community College before hosting Hightstown on October 3.
"Every time they get a little glimpse of that or have some good minutes of realizing it, that just gives them more confidence."
And as the team gets more confident, the laughs should keep coming.
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