September 13, 2016

With New Talent Answering Question Marks, PHS Girls’ Soccer Has Potential to Surprise

Zoe Tesone

ON HER TOES: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Zoe Tesone controls the ball during a recent practice session. Senior standout defender Tesone will be leading the PHS back line this fall. The Little Tigers get their 2016 season underway when they play at Hopewell Valley on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Losing 12 seniors to graduation from a squad that advanced to the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional semifinals in 2015, there were question marks all over the field for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team as it started preseason last month.

But it didn’t take long for PHS head coach Val Rodriguez to find the right answers to a lot of those questions.

“At the end of last season, it was more nervous, what is next year going to bring,” said Rodriguez, who guided the Little Tigers to an 11-5-1 record last fall.

“Now that we have the team and we see the new talent and we see the growth and the potential, I think people are really excited.”

Rodriguez is excited about her group of forwards, which features sophomore Shannon Romaine and freshman Kirin Kunukkasseril.

“Shannon is a returning sophomore, she has got good size and she can hold people off,” said Rodriguez, who will also be using sophomore Hayley Cohen and junior Sabine Waldeck up front.

“She scored two goals already for us in our first scrimmage, she has a composure about her that I am excited to see. Kirin is just this freshman but nothing makes her nervous, I have never seen a player on the field so calm. I think that she is going to find the back of the net several times for us because of the composure that she has.”

The midfield will be spearheaded by two of the team’s most skilled players, juniors Colette Marciano and Devon Lis.

“Colette and Devon are going to be the engines for us in the midfield for sure,” asserted Rodriguez.

“They are both very smart, talented players; hopefully teams don’t double us up too much in the middle. They both had big club seasons and were both out to San Diego for the nationals.”

The Little Tigers boast a number of other talented players to join Marciano and Lis in the midfield, including junior Isabella Giglio, freshman Morgan Beamer, and junior Izzy Stier.

“We are going to fill the left with Isabella, she is fresh back from surgery again but she is healthy and is finally going to get some true minutes on the left side,” said Rodriguez.

“The other slot is a little bit up in the air. We have got Morgan in the mix and she is looking strong. Izzy can play there. We might play around with one of the outside backs and see what they look like there.”

Senior star Zoe Tesone leads a battle-tested back line for PHS, which will also feature junior Gracia DiBianco, senior Jackie Girouard, junior Abaigeal Ryan, and promising freshman Lauren Rougas.

“Zoe has good poise back there, she makes good decisions,” said Rodriguez.

“She is great in the air game and communicates really well. She has got a good foot. Zoe and Gracia are going to play in the middle for us and then we have Abaigeal and Jackie back on the outside so our defense isn’t changing too much. We have a great freshman, Lauren, who will rotate through very nicely as well.”

The Little Tigers have two freshmen, Caroline Ealy and Shaylah Marciano, vying for time at goalie.

“Both show a lot of potential, both show a lot of talent,” said Rodriguez of her goalies.

“I think for team dynamics, one will win a starter’s spot but I don’t want the other one to be sitting on the bench all of the time. I would like to get a rotation in but I would also like to have consistency.”

If PHS can develop consistency, it could enjoy a positive campaign. “I think it is one of those teams where the positive energy is pretty good right now so if we can continue to learn from one another and the veterans teach the newcomers, I think we can surprise ourselves,” said Rodriguez.

“There is a lot of young talent and we are filling the holes that we knew we had pretty well. I look at it as one of those no expectations, see what we can do kind of years. The goals we are going to set are individual, small goals.”