Senior star Corinne Urisko and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey squad were disappointed in late August when they got outclassed in falling 3-0 to Princeton High in a preseason scrimmage.
As a result, there was a heightened level of intensity in the air last Thursday when PDS welcomed their crosstown rivals for their annual regular season meeting as Urisko and her classmates were honored in the program’s annual Senior Day.
“We were really fired up going into this,” said sweeper and tri-captain Urisko. “We wanted this more than anything.”
The Panthers didn’t wait long to show their desire to win as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 5:35 into the contest when Andrea Jenkins banged home a feed from Urisko. PDS was able to hold the fort the rest of the game, repelling several Little Tiger attacks as it held on for a 1-0 victory.
When the final buzzer surrounded, the Panthers mobbed each other on the field, riding an emotional high that had several players crying for joy.
“Having this on Senior Day made everything worth it,” asserted Urisko. “I have never been happier; we all pulled together and worked as a team.”
The Panthers worked really well together in the defensive end as they continually thwarted the high-powered PHS attack.
“We really worked on our communication and marking our players really tight,” said Urisko.
“We didn’t want any balls going into the circle. We have been working on our defense for a long time now in practice so it really helped.”
Urisko was happy to help offensively as she slotted a pass into the circle early in the game that Princeton-bound classmate Jenkins converted for the only score of the contest.
“I saw the opening and I passed it,” recalled Urisko. “I have a lot of confidence in Andrea. I knew she would get it in for us.”
The team’s group of seniors, which includes defenders Cami McNeely and Zeeza Cole and goalie Sarah Trigg, along with Urisko and Jenkins, is looking to write a special final chapter to their PDS career.
“We have been together for so long and some of us are going to play in college, this is really important to us,” said Urisko.
“We want to end this season well. We want to win the county tournament and hopefully the preps. Those are goals this season.”
In Urisko’s view, the influence of new head coach Tracey Arndt has helped give PDS a championship mentality.
“She fuels our fire; she gets us pumped up,” said Urisko. “She always knows what to say and she has been a great coach for us. We have come a long way since last year. She is very encouraging; she has helped us so much.”
Arndt, for her part, saw the win over PHS as exemplifying how far her team has come this season.
“We had played them in the preseason and they were really strong then,” said Arndt.
“I knew that we had so much improvement. I knew it would be a great game. I knew Senior Day would pick things up and the energy was high.”
After battling Montgomery to a 2-2 tie two days before the showdown with the Little Tigers, PDS had to fine-tune things.
“We played Montgomery on Tuesday and they were a very strong team,” said Arndt, whose team topped Northern Burlington 3-1 last Monday to improve to 9-1-3 and will wrap up regular season play by hosting Hun on October 17.
“We both gave each other a really close game but I thought there were parts of our game that had just a little bit of a mental breakdown. We worked on the things that we needed to work on, one of them being defensive corners. It was really good that we did; we had great defensive corners today. I give the Princeton attack credit for getting the corners.”
Arndt credited Urisko and her fellow senior defenders McNeely and Cole together with goalie Trigg for producing some great work in the win over PHS.
“They really came together; they had to be really strong and forceful together,” said Arndt.
“Cami came up with some great plays for us. Corinne had a great play on the goal. Trigg came out when she needed to. Zeeza plays simple and poised; you are not going to hear her ranting and raving. She is just going to do it simple and get it out. We really proud of what they have done.”
In Arndt’s view, her team can use the victory over the Little Tigers as a springboard heading into the postseason.
“We have the MCTs coming up and we have the state tournament coming up,” said Arndt, whose team is seeded No. 1 in the MCT and will host the victor of the Nottingham-Hamilton play-in game in an opening round contest on October 20.
“Mercer County is strong and any time you beat a public school, that is good. I think this just gives us momentum going into our last two games and the playoffs.”
Urisko, for her part, believes that the Panthers can make a strong playoff run.
“We need lots of communication and everyone has got to give it their all and 110 percent,” said Urisko.
“This year I feel like we really want it; we have a lot of drive. There is a high intensity out on the field and it is nice to see.”