With Group of Seniors Setting a Positive Tone, PHS Girls’ Soccer Excited for Upcoming Season
TOUGH DEFENSE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Greta Bush, left, battles a foe for the ball in a game last season. Junior defender Bush will help lead the back line again this fall for the Tigers. PHS opens its 2019 campaign by playing at Nottingham on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Val Rodriguez likes the vibe around her Princeton High girls’ soccer team as it prepares for the 2019 season.
“The preseason has been good; the seniors and the captains have been setting the tone really nicely,” said PHS head coach Rodriguez, whose quartet of senior captains includes Shaylah Marciano, Lauren Rougas, Morgan Beamer, and Kirin Kunukkasseril. “It is good work ethic and good team chemistry so far.”
After making the quarterfinals of both the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional and the Mercer County Tournament last year on the way to a 9-7-2 record, the squad’s returners are brimming with confidence.
“We have 15 players back on the varsity roster,” said Rodriguez, whose team opens the 2019 season by playing at Nottingham on September 5.
“They feel really confident moving forward. They know if they put in the work and they are fit, it could turn out to be a good season for them.”
While sophomore star striker Sophia Lis is currently sidelined with an injury, PHS boasts some good options at forward in senior Beamer, sophomore Megan Rougas, and junior Vanessa Ponce.
“We have Morgan, she will be on the left side,” said Rodriguez. “We have a new player Megan coming up. She could do some good stuff for us. Vanessa is going to be in both the midfield and forward for us. She is a very tricky player; she can bring a lot to the table.”
Rodriguez will be looking for Ponce, Kunukkasseril, junior Molly Frain, and Lauren Rougas to do some good stuff in the middle of the field.
“Vanessa and Kirin will be in the midfield,” said Rodriguez. “Molly is hopefully going to have a standout season for us. I would like to see Lauren Rougas get some midfield minutes this year.”
At the outset of the campaign, though, Rougas will be getting more minutes on defense, spearheading that unit along with junior Greta Bush.
“We are hoping to move Lauren around, but she is still the heart of the defense for now,” said Rodriguez, noting that junior Grace Heilbronn is currently out due to injury.
“Greta Bush is great, she is a dynamic player and is someone who we can move around. We are looking to find stability first and then play with some things. We also have some sophomores and juniors in Phoebe Frankel, Ava Thomson, and Lilly Gabriella who are going to see some significant minutes.”
PHS returns two battle-tested goalies in seniors Marciano and Caroline Ealy, who are vying for playing time.
“It will continue to shake itself out; they are both senior goalies and four-time returners,” said Rodriguez. “They will be playing to best help the team.”
In the view of Rodriguez, her squad needs to be on the same page tactically to be at its best.
“To be successful, we have to build the play and we have to have possession,” said Rodriguez.
“We have to communicate and even over-communicate. We have to fill the roles that we are responsible for.”