The Princeton High field hockey team didn’t produce its best effort when it played Hopewell Valley in mid-September.
Coming out flat offensively, PHS dug a 2-0 hole on the way to a 2-1 loss to the Bulldogs.
When the teams met in a rematch last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, the Little Tigers gave extra effort from the opening whistle, battling HoVal tooth-and-nail all over the field.
After teams fought to a scoreless draw in the first half at Mercer County Community College, PHS turned up the heat after intermission on the chilly evening, controlling possession and generating several good scoring chances.
Neither team, however, was able to break through and the game headed into overtime.
PHS head coach Heather Serverson had a good feeling as her team got ready for the extra session.
“I think it really got the girls’ intensity and energy up,” said Serverson. “I think they had a great talk about specific things to do like quick passing and less dribbling and getting the ball in behind their defense.”
During the 20 minutes of overtime, PHS made several forays into the HoVal defensive end but couldn’t hit the back of the cage and the game was decided on strokes. The Bulldogs managed to convert three strokes to PHS’s one in order to survive and advance to the MCT title game.
With her players walking away teary-eyed from the MCCC field, Serverson lauded their effort.
“I think they played a great game, they played as well as they could,” said Serverson, whose team moved to 12-4-1 with the setback. “They left it all out on the field, I don’t think there is one more thing that they could have done.”
Serverson tipped her hat to HoVal and its play. “It is just tough to get through their defense, they were double and triple teaming us,” lamented Serverson. “It was just little things they took advantage of to win the game. You have to be prepared for everything at this level and they were better prepared.”
PHS got high-level play all evening long from junior Lucy Herring and senior Emilia Lopez-Ona.
“I think Emilia and Lucy really stood out,” asserted Serverson. “Lucy has been playing some great offense and defense all at the same time. Emilia is Emilia, she is a competitor.”
In Serverson’s view, her team’s effort in the MCT should serve it well as it competes in the upcoming state tournament.
“I said to the girls if you don’t learn from a loss it wasn’t worth it,” said Serverson, whose team was seeded fifth in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30. “Hopefully we learn from it and we are able to move on.”