Dealing with Heavy Graduation Losses, PHS Field Hockey Emphasizing Teamwork
SAVING GRACE: Princeton High field hockey goalie Grace Cooke tracks the ball in a game last fall. Senior star and tri-captain Cooke has emerged as a leader of the PHS defensive unit. The Tigers, who went 15-2 last year and reached the semis of both the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional, host Nottingham on September 4 to open their 2019 campaign. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Suffering some heavy graduation losses from a squad that went 15-2 last year, the Princeton High field hockey team will have a different look this fall.
“We lost nine seniors and have had some injuries during preseason; we have some juggling around to do,” said PHS head coach Heather Serverson, who guided the Tigers to the semis of both the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional in 2018.
“As usual, I don’t get to pick my players, so every season is the same for me. I figure out what we have and where to put them.”
PHS does return some skilled offensive players in a trio of seniors Ria Sharma, Ellie Wilkinson, and Ava Greene, along with junior Shoshi Henderson.
“Up front, we have Ria, who has been doing some great things for us in scrimmages and preseason,” said Serverson, whose team hosts Nottingham on September 4 in its 2019 regular season opener.
“Ellie is another one to watch; her increased scoring at the end of the season last year really helped us out. Ava is looking to be more offensive this year and get up the field a bit. We will be looking to Shoshi too.”
In the midfield, Serverson is looking for the pair of Wilkinson and Greene along with sophomore Olivia Weir to lead the way.
“Players like Ava and Ellie could be the main driving forces in the midfield,” added Serverson. “Olivia is definitely going to have an impact.”
Another sophomore, Grace Rebak, figures to have a big impact on the back line.
“I am looking to Grace to really step up, I don’t think she will have any problem,” said Serverson.
“She dealt with seasoned Lawrenceville girls last year with ease. She is really composed for her age.”
PHS boasts a seasoned goalie in senior Grace Cooke, who has emerged as a leader of the back line and is serving as a captain of the squad along with classmates Greene and Wilkinson.
“Grace’s best strength is that she is such a team player. She was originally a field player and she volunteered to switch over two years ago and played goalie for us because we needed somebody to step up,” said Serverson.
“She has just embraced it, she has become a student of the game. She is a great leader in the back. She has really stepped into her leadership role in teams of being vocal on the field. The girls are really listening to her, she is organizing everybody.”
As the Tigers deal with the void left by graduation, the squad will need to be organized and in sync all over the field to produce another superb campaign.
“If you only rely on a couple of star players, that is only going to get you so far,” said Serverson.
“All of the kids understand that everyone has to play like a team and rely on each other; no one or two people can do this for us.”