After suffering a disappointing 2-1 loss to Princeton Day School last week in the semis of the Mercer County Tournament, Ally Rogers and her teammates on Princeton High girls’ soccer team were excited to get things started in the state tourney,
With third-seeded PHS hosting No. 14 Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional last Monday, the Little Tigers were looking to make a statement.
“This is a new tournament, this is a new start,” said senior forward Rogers. “We want to just show everyone what we have because we didn’t do that in the county tournament so we are going to do that in this tournament. We are going to come out strong.”
PHS certainly came out strong against Jackson Liberty, scoring five unanswered goals in the first half on the way to a 6-0 victory.
Rogers, who scored two of the first half goals, said that the Little Tigers showed progress from the PDS setback.
“We learned from it; we know we didn’t play our best in that game,” said Rogers.
“We could have won, I think. We just lost the momentum a little bit and stopped winning the 50/50 balls, which was a big problem. We just focused on that in our practices and we focused on that in this game and I think we did fairly well.
“Placing the ball and just calming down when you are in front of the goal are two of our other biggest things.”
In blasting in her tallies, Rogers showed clinical precision. “On my goals personally, I just made sure I took a breath before I shot,” said Rogers, who now has 10 goals and eight assists on the season. “I just saw the goalie and saw where she was and just placed it in the space.”
The productive partnership between Rogers and junior Shannon Pawlak was on display as Pawlak contributed two goals and an assist in the first half onslaught.
“Shannon uses her foot skills in the middle and I use my speed to get up the side and cross it to her,” explained Rogers.
“We just work very well with each other and we have learned to play off of each other and we talk to each other and make sure that we are on the same page.”
PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his players were on the same page Monday as they bounced back from the PDS loss and started the defense of their sectional crown.
“We were disappointed there, we were not dejected,” said Hand, referring to the team’s mood after the PDS setback. “We had been focusing on training well and wanted to come out and be sharp on attack and on defense. Today was a good start.”
In Hand’s view, Rogers and Pawlak were particularly sharp in the win over Jackson Liberty.
“Ally is so dynamic; she does some surprising things in every game,” asserted Hand, whose team will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on November 7.
“She is always working hard. She has developed a great ability to hold the ball under pressure and to get behind people and get in serves from really difficult angles. Shannon always works so hard for us. She did a great job of finishing off that early goal in the game.”
Rogers and her classmates, for their part, are determined to produce a big finish to their PHS careers.
“All of the seniors are so stoked that this is the team that is going to be our last team for the high school,” said Rogers.
“We just know that we are so strong that we can go all the way if we connect and play our game the whole time.”