As a middle schooler, she watched her older sister, Candi, a star for Princeton from 2005-09 who was a two-time All-Ivy League performer.
The younger Arner kept the family’s Princeton tradition alive, joining the Tiger program in 2011.
After making 31 appearances off the bench in her first two seasons with the team, junior Arner has worked her way into the starting lineup this fall.
“I have been coming to games for so long and I always wanted to be part of it,” said Arner. “It is a great thing for me to finally be on the field. This feels awesome.”
Last Friday against visiting Columbia, Arner did some great things for 11th-ranked Princeton, scoring two first half goals as the Tigers overwhelmed the Lions 5-0, improving to 6-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.
In reflecting on the tallies, which were her first two scores of the season, Arner said she was in the right place at the right time.
“It happened really quickly; Amanda Bird just gave an amazing aerial over to me,” said Arner, assessing her first goal, which came just 24 seconds into the contest.
“I could not have asked for a better pass or a better set-up. I was just lucky to be there. That play on the second goal was just an amazing give and go from Allegra Mango. Again, my teammates just set me up perfectly. That is the great part about being on Princeton field hockey.”
A recent change of position from defense to midfield has helped Arner take a bigger part in the Tiger attack.
“This is my second game playing midfield; I was defense before at the beginning of the year,” said Arner.
“I am really liking it. It has taken some getting used to, hopefully this trend continues. I think it definitely helps my confidence; it is always nice to score. It was just getting used to the position and getting used to taking shots, which is not something I have been doing in the past.”
In the win Friday, Princeton peppered Columbia, building a 31-4 edge in shots on the evening as it scored its five goals in the first half and cruised from there.
“We did a really good job of clicking and persisting in the circle, which is what we talk about a lot in practice,” said Arner.
“Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] always says be strong on the ball in the circle, don’t let it out. I think tonight we were really threatening in there for the first time.”
Holmes-Winn, for her part, liked the way her team attacked the game. “We just wanted them to be really decisive within the parameters of the game plan,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals from junior Allison Evans in the win over the Lions with freshman Cat Caro also scoring as defending national champion Princeton won its 16th straight Ivy contest.
“I think we did a very good job of stretching Columbia out and playing the simple ball, which is something we have been talking about, and training on a lot. I thought they performed well, especially in the first half.”
Arner’s performance certainly gave the Tigers a lift. “Cassie has been playing halfback for us and she has been working really hard since moving to that wing position,” said Holmes-Winn.
“She was very threatening, which is something we have been asking that position to be. She delivered so that was really good to see.”
Princeton also played some really good defense in the victory over the Lions.
“It starts with the strikers and goes through the midfield and the backs,” said Holmes-Winn.
“When you defend, it is absolutely a team effort and every single line is responsible for getting good pressure on the ball and making sure that we are layering in behind. I thought that was a real highlight.”
While Princeton has been under pressure, having lost three of its last five games coming into Friday, Holmes-Winn believes her squad is heading in the right direction.
“We haven’t turned the corner yet but I think we are getting closer,” said Holmes-Winn.
“This team has a major upside, which is so encouraging. We just have to keep prioritizing and just kind of tic-tacking our way through the things we know we need to do better to get to that next level. We are nowhere near our potential, which is really exciting. We have to keep making progress, though.”
Noting that the team’s losses came to Top-10 teams (Penn State, Syracuse, and Connecticut), Holmes-Winn believes those setbacks could sow the seeds for success later in the season.
“I never like to lose and I don’t think you have to lose to learn lessons,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team is next in action when it plays at top-ranked Maryland (10-0) on October 11 and at Delaware (8-3) on October 13.
“You play those teams so you can learn about yourself. It’s not about where we are now; it is about where we are in November. We need those games so we understand what we can do and what we can’t do. Then we can kind of create around those boundaries so we are playing within our means because that is critical in terms of long term success.”
In Arner’s view, the win over Columbia is a harbinger of good things to come.
“I think this was a step forward for our confidence and just knowing that we are able to be scrappy like that,” said Arner.
“It is really going to count in the games coming up. I think all the pieces are definitely there. It is just about coming to the game with the mentality we had in the first half here, attacking, threatening, and playing with confidence.”