While Haley Bodden starred on defense last year in her freshman season for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team as the squad won a sectional title, she was ready for a switch this fall.
Moving up to midfield for the 2013 campaign, Bodden has made an immediate impact from her new spot, tallying a goal and four assists in PHS’ first two games, helping the Little Tigers to a 2-0 start.
For Bodden, the switch has allowed her to assume her natural spot on the field.
“I usually play that position but last year I played sweeper to help them out, they needed me there,” said Bodden, after picking three assists in a 5-4 win over Hightstown last week.
“I think being a playmaker is a lot better for me because I can give them balls like today and get assists like today. I think it worked out pretty well.”
Bodden has been working well with junior forward Shannon Pawlak, who has five goals in the team’s first two games, including a hat trick in the victory over Hightstown.
“Shannon is really good with her feet so if I give her a ball, I know she will be able to turn around and just finish it for us,” said Bodden. “I can rely on her a lot.”
PHS needed the one-two punch of Bodden and Pawlak in the topsy-turvy Hightstown game which saw the Rams battle back from being down 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2 only to tie the game at 4-4 with 14:00 left in regulation.
“After we scored a few goals I felt we got the momentum,” said Bodden. “Then they scored and we kind of lost it on defense. But I think we brought ourselves back together. We finished it on a good note.”
With one high school season under her belt, Bodden believes she can do some good things this fall.
“This year I know that it is OK to make mistakes,” said Bodden. “I know that everyone makes mistakes but we all help each other in the long run. I feel more powerful on the field this year. Last year I was kind of timid.”
In Bodden’s view, PHS can build on last year’s experience to be a power again.
“It gave us a lot of confidence,” said Bodden, referring to the team’s run to the Group III state semis in 2012.
“I didn’t know this year if we were going to be as good as last year. We look pretty good, I don’t know what is going to happen but hopefully it will be just like last year.”
PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his offense looked pretty good in the victory over Hightstown.
“We created four very good high quality goals and then the fifth one was a nice hustle goal,” said Hand.
“It wasn’t the finishes, it was the fact that there were four or five very intentional passes that showed some real understanding of how to create a chance so that was terrific.
Hand credits Bodden with creating some great chances for the Little Tigers from the midfield.
“Haley is doing a terrific job on attack and there are two sides to it,” asserted Hand.
“One, when she has the opportunity to do something by herself, she’ll take the initiative. But she is reading when she needs to be there to support someone else and just help them really pressure. She is a real cog in that.”
Another key cog for PHS is senior star Dana Smith. “Likewise Dana, who worked end to end today, has done a terrific job of being involved in the development of most every scoring chance that we get,” said Hand.
“That’s what we need, we want her to touch the ball somewhere in that progression because she finds people so quickly.”
Junior star Shannon Pawlak has been displaying an uncanny finishing touch for the Little Tigers.
“It is wonderful; a forward is never going to score 100 percent of her chances but she does some wonderful things to give herself a view of the goal,” said Hand of Pawlak.
“The finishes that she has converted and a few that she has just missed have been really, really excellent.”
Hand acknowledges that his squad wasn’t excellent at the defensive end against Hightstown.
“As hard as we were working and we were working really hard, we made a lot of mistakes that were matters of concentration and focus,” said Hand, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 19 in its first appearance on the school’s new turf field and then plays at Lawrence High on September 24.
“I am just concerned that when we are playing in a hard fought, fast-moving game that we tend to make mistakes that we are well aware we shouldn’t be making. It is frustrating but I think that is the kind of thing you can fix if the players make it an item among themselves as to how they are going to handle tight game situations.”
Bodden, for her part, believes that the team has the chemistry to address that situation.
“Our communication is a lot better since we know each other, we know how we play with each other and how each person plays by themselves,” said Bodden.
“We know how to support in the right way and send balls and we know that our teammates will get on them.”