As the Princeton High field hockey team battled Warren Hills last Saturday in the first half of the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals, it was clicking on all cylinders.
Looking strong at both ends of the field, fifth-seeded PHS took a 2-0 lead over the No. 4 Blue Streaks into halftime.
“We played the way we play best with a quick passing, possession game,” said PHS head coach Heather Serverson, reflecting on her team’s first-half performance.
“We have been working on pushing harder to the goal and playing tighter defense and we did both of those in the first half.”
But midway through the second half, a hard six-minute stretch doomed the Little Tigers to a 3-2 defeat.
“About 15 minutes in, we were still ahead 2-0 but then they scored three goals in six minutes, it was a wave of intensity,” said Serverson, who got goals from Julia DiTosto and Trish Reilly in the loss. “We had trouble responding and we had a couple of injuries in that stretch.”
In addressing her players in the wake of the defeat that left PHS with a final record of 13-4-2, Serverson saw parallels to the team’s heartbreaking loss on strokes to Hopewell Valley a week earlier in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.
“It was sort of the same as after the Hopewell loss in the Mercer County Tournament,” said Serverson.
“I told them they have to be able to respond and adjust to the other team. It is the little things that make a difference at this level.”
In Serverson’s view, while her team played high-level hockey all fall long, it could have reached even greater heights.
“It was an excellent season,” said Serverson. “We had a great record even with the two late losses. I feel that they didn’t reach their potential, they were capable of more.”
The team’s core of seniors did their best to help the team maximize its potential.
“Our captains [Emilia Lopez-Ona, Merritt Peck, and Gennie Quinn] helped provide stability and calm in the postseason games,” said Serverson. “Breanna [Hegarty-Thorne] did a great job in the cage.”
Welcoming back such talented players as DiTosto, Reilly, Lucy Herring, Elisa Kostenbader, Campell McDonald, Jordyn Cane, and Georgia McLean, Serverson believes PHS can do some great things next fall.
“I think the experience they got in this postseason will be drawn upon next year,” said Serverson. “We are returning more than half the starters.”