On one hand, the graduation of Sydney Watts has left a gaping void for the Princeton High field hockey team.
The skilled Watts, who is now playing at Amherst College, triggered the Little Tigers from the midfield last fall and provided superb leadership.
“At first, we were missing Sydney, we relied on her a lot last year,” said PHS head coach Heather Serverson.
But Serverson believes that Watts’ departure will ultimately help PHS be a better-rounded squad in the long run.
“I think that will be an advantage because we have strong players all over the field,” said Serverson, who guided PHS to a 14-5-1 record last year as the team advanced to the quarterfinals of both the Mercer County Tournament and the NJSIAA Group III North 2 sectional. “We won’t have to rely on one go-to player.”
PHS does boast a very strong player in senior star Emilia Lopez-Ona. “I have Emilia at sweeper,” said Serverson of Lopez-Ona, who also stars in lacrosse and has committed to join the Penn women’s lax program.
“She is the energy of the team. When she is up, the team is up. She communicates well. She is an all-around player.”
Another all-around talent for the Little Tigers is junior standout Julia DiTosto.
“We were able to move Julia up to center mid from defense,” said Serverson. “She is very good at getting the ball on defense and then transitioning quickly to offense.”
The PHS defensive set up will also include sophomore Julia Snyder, senior Merritt Peck, junior Emily Kinney, sophomore Allison Spann, and freshman Kennedy Corrado along with returning senior goalie Breanna Hegerty-Thorne.
On offense, Serverson believes she has several scoring options. “Two of our forwards, Lucy Herring and Elisa Kostenbader have really stepped up,” said Serverson, who will also be using junior Campbell McDonald at forward.
“Kostenbader has about half of our goals in our scrimmages so far. Avery Peterson is new to forward. She has played a lot of midfield and is adjusting to the position.”
The PHS midfield features a mix of youth and experience, led by sophomore Trish Reilly.
“Trish was solid for us last year and we are looking for more of the same this year,” said Serverson.
“Two freshmen, Jordyn Cane and Georgia McLean, will be in the midfield. Bea Greenberg is also in the mix.”
Based on its play in preseason scrimmages so far, PHS has reason for confidence. “I think we are passing very well,” asserted Serverson. “We are composed. We know what we want to do with the ball before it leaves our sticks.”
In Serverson’s view, the players will need to stick together to produce another big season.
“I think we can do as well as we did last year; we need to come together and operate as a group,” said Serverson.
“I think one of the things that works well for us is being a unit on and off the field. They need to come together in everything they do as a group. We need to stay healthy and push ourselves in practice.”