As Eloise Stanton waited to get back on the field midway through the second half of the Mercer County Tournament girls’ soccer title game last Saturday, the Princeton Day School senior midfielder was confident she could make an impact.
With top-seeded PDS locked in a scoreless tie with No. 2 Hopewell Valley, Stanton trotted onto the field at Rider University and got into the fray.
“I came off from outside mid and I was pretty tired and just got a quick drink,” said Stanton. “Everyone on the bench cheered me on and I went in and when I was on the field everybody was really helpful.”
With 11:21 left in the half, Stanton got her teammates cheering as she headed in a soaring cross from Alexa Soltesz to give PDS a 1-0 lead.
“It was perfectly placed and I just looked up and hit it,” said Stanton, recalling the goal that proved to be the game-winner in a 2-0 victory for the Panthers as they won the program’s first county crown.
“It was easy for me, she did all the work. As an outside mid, I am told to go on the keeper and I tried to do that. Alexa has amazing crosses. She has a great foot and her corners are always beautiful.”
PDS head coach Pat Trombetta was happy to see Stanton’s work pay off with the decisive tally.
“Eloise started the season off great,” said Trombetta. “I had a conversation with her the other day and I said ‘Eloise you have had a little bit of a lull here in scoring. This is your last week as a PDS Panther, go out and make something happen.’ That was a beautiful header.”
Just over a minute later, Stanton and her teammates experienced another beautiful moment as junior Kirsten Kuzmicz headed in a free kick from senior star Brit Murray to give the Panthers some insurance.
“It felt really good; getting the first goal is good but you know it can easily be tied up,” said Stanton, reflecting on Kuzmicz’s tally.
“Getting the second goal is really nice, especially since there were only about 10 minutes left in the half. I think that is when we knew we had it in our grasp.”
With the game tied at 0-0 at halftime, things weren’t coming easy for PDS as it battled a tough HoVal squad that had knocked off powerful Pennington on the way to the title game.
“We were concerned,” said Stanton. “We knew how to play it, especially from the PHS game when we were down 1-0 at the half. We have a lot of heart.
“We knew we could do it. We all have faith in each other. I think that is the main thing, we have confidence in our teammates and that is what makes us good.”
Coming together as a team paved the way to PDS’s championship breakthrough with the squad bouncing back from a frustrating 4-9-4 campaign in 2012.
“I think a lot of it is that we have been working on team chemistry,” said Stanton.
“Last year, we had all the talent but the seniors have been working on bringing that together because we kind of played individually. We did have the talent but we didn’t really work together as well. So this year the seniors tried to get the team to have one goal and one big picture in mind for what we wanted in the end.”
In Stanton’s view, winning the county title was not only a great way to end her career, it should serve as big inspiration for the program going forward.
“It means so much especially for the seniors and this being our last season,” said Stanton.
“It is a great way to end. I think for the incoming freshmen it is a great way to start because it shows them how much everything means to us and that getting this far, it gives them something to shoot for in the future.”