Coming off a frustrating 4-9-4 season in 2012, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team didn’t appear to be a championship contender last fall.
But producing a dramatic reversal of fortune, PDS went 17-2-1, winning the Mercer County Tournament for the first time and taking second in the state Prep B tourney.
Entering the 2014 campaign, PDS knows it is the hunted team after last year’s heroics.
“There is a big target on their backs; this is the first time the team has been in this position,” said head coach Pat Trombetta, whose team opens regular season play with a game at New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on September 5.
“We have a good core of players here, they are excited to defend their county title.”
The Panthers boast a solid core of battle-tested seniors in Erin Hogan, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Murray, Alexa Soltesz, Stef Soltesz, Jamie Thomas, and Kelly Tarcza along with a group of improving sophomores that features Abby Atkeson, Hannah Bunce, Alexis Davis, Allison Klei, Emily Simons, and Katie Simons.
“Kirsten and Erin are our captains, there is good leadership there,” said Trombetta.
“They are both passionate players and respected by their teammates. The twins give us a big boost with Alexa on offense and Stef on defense. The sophomores are one of the most improved groups I have seen in a while. I think a big part of it was being on a championship team and they saw what it takes.”
Alexa Soltesz appears to be in championship form already at forward. “Alexa is looking great, she has improved every year,” asserted Trombetta. “She has one of the best turns I have seen with her back to goal, she has a really quick move.”
Freshman striker Ann Xu has proved to be a quick study. “Ann Xu is a skilled player who plays outside of school,” added Trombetta, who will also use Murray at forward. “She is a passionate player. She is going to be a starter.”
The midfield features a number of skilled players, including Kuzmicz, Klei, freshman Madison Coyne, Atkeson, and Bunce.
“Kirsten is playing well,” said Trombetta. “We are expecting her to win a lot of 50/50 battles; she gives us a real presence. Allison Klei is playing well, she came back in great shape. Madison Coyne is a talented player, she is another freshman who is going to start. Abby Atkeson and Hannah Bunch will be on the outside.”
On defense, the trio of Stef Soltesz, Hogan, and Davis should win a lot of battles along the back line.
“It is great having Stef back there, any time we make a mistake on defense, she is there to sweep it up,” said Trombetta, who will also be using junior Isabel Meyercord and Tarcza on defense.
“She is a goalie’s best friend. Erin had a great second half last year. We are looking for her to build on that. Alexis Davis was on offense last year but we are moving her to defense, we think she gives us depth there.”
In goal, freshman Grace Barbara gives PDS an exciting new face. “Grace Barbara is starting in goal, she is a dynamite keeper,” said Trombetta.
“She is very talented. She can play balls with her feet and gives us a lot of options. She is playing beyond her years, she is yelling out there and is in control.”
Trombetta, for his part, believes his team can build on last year’s success. “The major goals are to defend the county title and win the state Prep title,” said Trombetta.
“People ask what can you do for an encore; we didn’t win both last year. We have to take it one game at a time. The No. 1 key to success is to stay healthy and the No. 2 is to find someone to step up on free kicks.”