August 30, 2017

Encouraged by Strong Finish Last Year, PHS Girls’ Soccer Primed to Take Next Step

NO LETTING UP: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Colette Marciano controls the ball in 2016 action. PHS will be depending on senior Marciano and classmate Devon Lis to provide a one-two punch in the midfield this fall. The Little Tigers open their 2017 season by playing at Manalapan on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Going with a bevy of new faces last fall due to some heavy graduation losses, the Princeton High girls’ soccer struggled in the early going as it got off to a 0-3 start.

But with the youth movement eventually paying dividends, PHS went 11-5 the rest of the fall, winning games in both the Mercer County Tournament and Central Jersey Group 4 sectional.

As the Little Tigers have hit the field this year to prepare for the 2017 campaign, they are looking to build on last year’s strong finish.

“The core of our team came back really ready to go,” said PHS head coach Val Rodriguez, whose team opens its 2017 season by playing at Manalapan on September 5.

“I think the team chemistry and the confidence is stronger. Last year coming in, losing so many seniors from the year before, everybody was really hesitant. We ended on a pretty decent high and that has helped us move into this season. We have a large group of seniors this year so there is a lot of leadership. There are a lot of veterans who lead the pack for everybody.”

Two of those seniors, Devon Lis and Colette Marciano, figure to form a potent one-two punch in the midfield for the Little Tigers.

“Devon and Colette are attacking center mids and they are definitely highlights of the team for sure,” said Rodriguez, noting that Lis is committed to attend and play at Georgetown while Marciano is headed to Columbia to compete for its soccer program.

“They are both going to be moving into the attack a lot more this year. They are my senior captains. They are just very committed soccer players, very knowledgeable and very tricky. I think that they are going to be really productive for us this year. They can have a great season.”

Rodriguez believes that junior Shannon Romaine can give Lis and Marciano support in the middle of the field.

“Shannon is going to be a holding center midfielder,” added Rodriguez, who also has sophomore Molly Frain in the midfield.

“She got a lot of time last year. We moved her around a lot but she is definitely going to find a home in center midfield for us.”

Another junior, Camille Franklin, has found a home up top at forward for PHS.

“Camille is a new girl. She moved here from Tennessee, she is going to be a name to look out for,” said Rodriguez, whose corps of forwards includes senior Isabella Giglio, senior Isabella Stier, junior Hannah Colaizzo, senior Kristina Miers, sophomore Morgan Beamer, senior Lauren Woodbury, and sophomore Kirin Kunukkasseril.

“We have a lot of options to run up top. We have some seniors, juniors, and sophomores; everyone is going to rotate through the mix.”

Seniors Abaigeal Ryan and Gracia DiBianco along with sophomore Lauren Rougas are spearheading the PHS back line.

“Ryan does a really great job for us; this is her third year on varsity and she is a really shut down defender for us,” said Rodriguez, whose defensive unit also includes junior Kathryn DeMilt, junior Julia Thomson, senior Kelly Bowen, senior Joslen Beslity, and senior Sabine Waldeck.

“DiBianco is a really good mark out defender but what I am hoping she can do more this year is find herself in the attack and come out of the back a little bit. Lauren Rougas is back; she is going to be a really good one to look our for. She is a real athlete — she plays lacrosse also, but soccer is her sport and she is going to be in the back.”

At goalkeeper, sophomores Shaylah Marciano and Caroline Ealy give the Little Tigers skill and depth.

“I have two sophomore goalies who are very strong,” said Rodriguez. “They are competitive and they both train hard.”

In the view of Rodriguez, PHS possesses the firepower to be very competitive this fall.

“We have a good core of our defense coming back,” said Rodriguez. “We have an extremely strong midfield and I think that is going to show really, really well on our attack. We have some of the pieces on our attack solved. We are more excited on the goal scoring end this year than we were last season.”