When the Princeton High field hockey team fell behind 1-0 at Princeton Day School midway through the second half last Wednesday, Campbell McDonald and her teammates weren’t about to back down.
“We were concerned but I think in moments like that our team steps up and plays the best game they can,” said McDonald.
“It does wake us up a little bit. It woke us up and I think that is what inspired us to push even harder than we already were.”
Moments later, PHS was able to push in two goals as Lucy Herring scored with 12:21 left in regulation and then McDonald found the back of the cage with 3:17 remaining to notch the game-winner as the Little Tigers pulled out a 2-1 victory.
“I was thinking when the corner went off that we have to get it in this time so I knew my job was to get to pads and Elisa [Kostenbader] was getting to post,” said McDonald, reflecting on her tally.
“We had perfect passing in the end and all that passing added together and we got that clean first shot.”
In McDonald’s view, the first goal from Herring proved to be the turning point for the Little Tigers.
“It was a big spark,” said McDonald. “At that point we were just hitting it into the pads and we didn’t know what was going to happen and to see it go through and Lucy get that touch was just so exciting. It just sparked everything for everyone.”
Even though the Little Tigers had only lost twice this fall with PDS having six defeats as the teams hit the field, McDonald was expecting an exciting game.
“We came into this game knowing that it was going to be tough and we were going to go back and forth,” said McDonald.
“There was no outcome that we could predict at that point because either team could have won.”
With the teams knotted 0-0 at halftime, PHS knew that it had to pick things up to avoid an upset.
“We communicated a lot better, which was one of our goals,” said McDonald. “We were just getting passes off and we were being clean and crisp, which was exactly what we needed to do.”
Having tallied two goals and an assist in the three games leading up to Wednesday’s clash with the Panthers, McDonald has been playing crisply.
“I know that sometimes it is hard because when you play for a club team you need to learn to adjust and change,” said McDonald, who competes for the Princeton field hockey club which is headed by Princeton University head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.
“I think when I feel like I am ready, I just start playing and everyone starts playing with me. I fit everyone’s mold and then they fit mine.”
PHS head coach Heather Serverson acknowledged that it took a while for her team to start playing well against PDS.
“Every year it is a challenge for us to get past PDS,” said Serverson. “I don’t think this year was that much different. They played a really tight game, they have very good sticks, and they stop everything. We had to adjust to that. We weren’t playing our game at first. We were kind of reacting to them as opposed to doing what we know we do best and we finally got our act together.”
Showing its maturity, PHS reacted well when it fell behind. “I think that ability to come back is something I have been working on with this program over years,” said Serverson.
“I think it is finally at the point where I don’t have to prompt them or get them excited. They just know we need to respond to that now, we need to turn it on right now.”
It was not surprising to Serverson that Herring and McDonald tallied the PHS goals in the rally.
“Lucy is a scrappy player, I love it,” said Serverson. “She is always there when she needs to be there with the proper execution. I couldn’t ask for more from her. I think Lucy and Campbell are very similar. She is usually on, they rarely have a bad game. When they are on together, it is wonderful.”
Junior forward Elisa Kostenbader, who assisted on both Little Tiger goals against PDS, has been on in recent action.
“Elisa definitely has been contributing more and more in terms of scoring and assists,” said Serverson. “She has been working hard at it and it has been paying off.”
With PHS seeded third in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and hosting No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round, Serverson is hoping her team’s hard work collectively will pay off with a deep run in the tourney.
“We have two losses to two very strong teams in the area,” said Serverson, whose team picked up a third defeat on Monday when it fell 2-1 to Hightstown last Monday to move to 10-3-1 and will host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the MCT.
“I think we have learned lessons from those losses because they were early on and we have made the adjustments. If we are playing the Princeton game, we are going to be hard to stop. We need a tight defense with quick, crisp passing.”
McDonald, for her part, believes PHS will be hard to beat in tournament play.
“We are very excited; I think the postseason is something we look forward to from the beginning,” said McDonald.
“We think about the season as preparation for postseason because every year we want to get farther and farther. I think we improve more and more every year and we have successfully gotten further so hopefully we can get one more step or a few more steps in the right direction.”