Over the last year, Sarah Brennan has put in extra effort to make herself a better field hockey player.
“I play year round with Mystx club, they are based out of Feasterville, Pa.” said Brennan, a senior midfielder for Princeton Day School.
“Mrs. Reinprecht [club coach Tina Reinprecht] and Mrs. Arndt [PDS coach Tracey Arndt] said I needed to work on my ball control and my hit; those are the two things I worked really hard on in the off-season to try to get ready for this high school season. I am much more comfortable handling the ball and taking a leadership role on the team.”
Last Wednesday, Brennan showed her comfort level and skill, scoring two goals to spark third-seeded PDS to a 3-0 win over No. 6 Newark Academy in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament.
As Brennan and her teammates hit the field, they were determined to keep their season going.
“Our mindset was just to win; everyone was going to do whatever they could to win,” said Brennan, reflecting on the win which earned PDS a berth in the Prep B semis where they will play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 3.
“This could be the seniors’ last game on Smoyer. Winning was our only option basically.”
Brennan took matters into her hands, scoring off a penalty corner 2:15 into the game and then adding another tally late in the first half as PDS took a 2-0 lead into intermission.
“We have practiced corners a ton,” said Brennan. “Mrs. Arndt was practicing with me, Mary [Travers], and Emma [Quigley] a lot yesterday; it was insert, hit, insert, hit. It is just a routine. On the second goal, I had an open shot. You look at the black and you try to hit it.”
The Panthers tacked on their third and final goal when Quigley scored early in the second half as they improved to 9-9 and won their third straight game, outscoring their foes 11-0 in that stretch.
In Brennan’s view, the Panthers have been playing their best hockey of the season over the last week.
“We are all working as a team; there is not much individualistic work, there is more passing and give-and-goes,” said Brennan.
“We do know how to come from behind. We know we are never out of a game, we can always come back because we have been on both ends of it just in this season. We play until the final whistle.”
Brennan is going to be playing beyond the final whistle this year as she has committed to Princeton University, the alma mater of her mother and father.
“My parents left the decision entirely up to me; they were great,” said Brennan.
“They were so supportive. It is just really exciting to be right down the road playing for Kristen Holmes-Winn. I couldn’t be luckier. I did my official visit this fall and I saw Andrea Jenkins [former PDS star] a bunch there. I am so excited to be playing with her again; she is a great player and a great friend.”
PDS head coach Arndt believes that Brennan has taken her game to a higher level.
“Sarah was on today and when she is on, she is on in terms of her hit and her finishing,” said Arndt.
“She has really stepped her game up since the beginning of the season but even from last year. She is ready for what college is going to bring. There are just little details that we want to get but she is really becoming a finesse player and doing exactly what she needs to do for us.”
In Arndt’s view, PDS did what it needed to do in the win over Newark Academy.
“Today was important, it was a win or you are out type of game so we needed to get on the board early, which I think we did and that was important,” said Arndt.
“Some of the game plan we were looking to accomplish was achieved. We got a lot of shots on goal which was great but as a coach I certainly want more to go in.”
Arndt knows her team will have to put in more work if it is to accomplish its goal of playing for a start title.
“So we’ll go back to the drawing board and make sure we are ready for Morristown-Beard,” said Arndt.
“We are in a lucky position because we have a week before the game and some other teams have a bunch of games in between the state game. We have got time to heal any injuries, refocus, and make sure that our next goal is to be the best we can against Morristown Beard. They are a great team so we have to be ready for them.”
PDS seems to be playing its best heading into the final week of the season. “We have been finishing; I really focus on winning each half,” said Arndt.
“If we think of it as 60 minutes, it gets long. I think it is better to focus in on a few minutes at a time and they have been winning those little battles so that’s been important. I think we have been finding our niche of who is playing in the positions that we need them to. I hope we are peaking at the right time but there is still stuff to do. With one game, anything can happen and so we just have to be focused on that game.”
The quartet of Panther seniors, Brennan, Quigley, Travers, and Emily Goldman, are ready to go out with a bang. “They are great friends and teammates,” asserted Arndt. “They knew this could be their last time together and they did everything.”
Brennan, for her part, vows that she and her classmates are going to leave it all on the field.
“This is the seniors’ last year, we are going to finish it,” said Brennan.
“It is a really special group of captains. I think that this team obviously means the world to us. We will do anything for them.”