A quartet of skilled seniors, Sarah Brennan, Emma Quigley, Mary Travers, and Emily Goldman, carried the bulk of the scoring load last fall as the Princeton Day School field hockey team advanced to the state Prep B semifinals.
With the graduation of those standouts, three of whom are playing college field hockey (Brennan at Princeton, Quigley at Brown, and Travers at Tufts), PDS will have a different look on attack this season.
“For us, it is totally about team play and team finishing,” said Panther head coach Tracey Arndt, who guided the squad to a 9-10 record in 2013.
“So to look for one person, I don’t think that is going to be our bread and butter this year. It is going to be the team that is successful and not relying on a couple of players, which was great about last year, but this year everybody gets to step up and be a part of it and that is a great thing too.”
Arndt will be relying on some young players to grow up fast as junior Lauren Finley and a pair of freshmen, Elizabeth Brennan and Gretchen Lindenfeldar, will be at forward.
“Lauren has done a great job, she is a forward who has really improved,” said Arndt, who also has sophomores Suma Kanuri and Emma Garcia along with freshmen Emma Latham and Madison Mundenar on the front line.
“I think her finishing skills have really stepped up so we are going to look to her as a leader because we did lose a lot of leadership on the forward line. We have Gretchen and Elizabeth coming in, they have showed us some really good stuff in the last week so we look to them to be finishers as well.”
PDS will be looking for senior tri-captain Dana Poltorak and juniors Rowan Schomburg and Kate Laughlin to spearhead the midfield.
“Dana is going to play midfield for us as well,” said Arndt, whose corps of midfielders will also include freshman Catherine Laylin and sophomore Catherine Stevens.
“She has really picked up her game. She has a great hit that we are going to look to use. She is just really fluid with her stickwork so we do like that. Rowan is going to be a good step up for us in the midfield, we are going to look for her and her tenacity around the goal cage. Kate Laughlin is back, she played left mid for us last year, she may be moving into a more defensive role. She is just really patient, consistent, and steady; we really need that. We’ll look for her on the left side of the field for sure.”
Another senior tri-captain, Niki van Manen, brings skill and savvy to the back line.
“Niki brings a lot of good experience, she brings a lot of composure,” said Arndt, whose defensive unit will also include junior Katie Shih.
“We moved her from a left mid position to a defensive role last year and she really took that on with strength. She knows how we want the game to be played. I just look for her strength, her defensive consistency. She has the best of both worlds, she can play attack and she can play defense so we look to use her for both.”
Youth will also be served on defense as freshmen Kyra Hall and Elena Schomburg along with sophomore transfer Kiely French should see action.
“Elena Schomburg has done a good job as has Kyra Hall,” said Arndt. “Kiely French is a great athlete and she is really coachable. I think we can use her in a lot of different positions, which is going to be really important for us to fill any voids that we have.”
Last fall, Katie Alden (this reporter’s daughter) filled a void at goalie and Arndt is expecting the senior tri-captain to benefit from that experience.
“We really needed Katie to step up last year; we had some new faces on the outside and now this year we certainly will again,” said Arndt, whose back-up goalie is sophomore Kyra Mason.
“She stepped up her game. She is stronger physically and she definitely has a stronger presence. I think she gained a lot of confidence last year. I just remember in a couple of our last games, she really took control of the circle. We look for her to continue to do that and continue that wave of confidence.”
With PDS opening its 2014 campaign by hosting Montgomery on September 5, Arndt believes the sum will be greater than the parts for the Panthers this fall.
“The key to our success this year is to play as a team,” said Arndt. “We have the skill, we have the ability but it is bringing it together. There is not going to be one person that I can say you go take the ball and do it. It really is going to be everybody but I think that really makes the success even sweeter when every single person from our freshmen to the senior captains are really going to be a part of our success. I am looking forward to that because everybody has to step up this year.”
Based on the first few weeks of preseason, Arndt sees things coming together for her squad. “There is a lot of support, both on and off the field,” said Arndt.
“They are very coachable students. They are very adaptable. We ask them to make a change and they make a change. We have seen a lot of growth and for us, it truly is taking it one game at a time. We are going to take this half and see if we can improve to the next half and then go game by game. We have lofty goals but at the same time, we have to focus on each game at a time and that is when the success will come.”