Fueled by Rougas’ Play in Central Midfield, PHS Girls’ Soccer Competing at a High Level
CENTRAL CASTING: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Lauren Rougas goes after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last week, senior star central midfielder Rougas scored a goal on a brilliant free kick to help PHS defeat Hamilton West 6-0 on October 1. The Tigers, who fell 2-0 to Hopewell Valley last Monday to move to 7-4-1, play at Lawrence on October 10 before hosting Notre Dame on October 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Lauren Rougas emerged as the heart and soul of the back line for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team last fall.
This year, senior Rougas has been moved up the field to central midfield and has been playing her heart out in her new spot, displaying superb finishing in addition to her customary defensive prowess.
In a 4-1 win over Ewing on September 26, Rougas scored three goals to spearhead the PHS offense.
Last week, she notched another goal on a brilliant free kick as the Tigers rolled to a 6-0 win over Hamilton West on October 1.
While Rougas acknowledged that the Hamilton game was one-sided, she thought PHS benefitted from the victory.
“Coming off of our win over Ewing, we had a lot of momentum and a lot of positivity,” said Rougas.
“We were excited to play a fun game and have a good day of soccer. We could move the ball around and get our mentality ready for the games where the competition is more intense.”
Rougas is having fun in her new spot of the field for PHS. “I play midfield for my club and I have a lot of experience in it,” said Rougas, who has committed to attend Colgate University and play for its women’s soccer program.
“It is good to switch the ball around and be the point of the attack for our team. I am pretty versatile when it comes to both of those positions because they are very close together.”
Over the years, Rougas has grown close to her seven classmates on the squad.
“We have a bunch of the seniors playing together since freshman year,” said Rougas.
“This year it is more of a cohesive unit than in prior years and I think that is what helps us win games.”
The addition of Rougas’ younger sister, freshman midfielder Megan, has also helped the Tigers.
“Megan is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen and I definitely give kudos to her,” said Rougas.
“Literally day in, day out, in practices or games, it doesn’t matter, she is always first to the ball. It might be my yelling at her.”
PHS head coach Val Rodriguez liked the way her players worked the ball around in the win over Hamilton.
“We always have to focus on our positioning, our shape on the field, the possession game, and making sure that we are creating attacks that are strong and numbers are up, and that we are finishing strong,” said Rodriguez, who also got goals from Naomi Bazar, Vanessa Ponce, Eva Petrone, Morgan Beamer, and Grace Heilbronn in the victory.
“There have been a lot of games where we are creating good opportunities and we are not putting goals away. In a game like this, we have to make sure that we put that ball away.”
Senior star Rougas has been putting a lot of balls away in her central midfield spot.
“Lauren is hungry for that ball,” said Rodriguez. “She finds herself on the field in moments that she needs to. She comes up with the ball every single time. In terms of a target for corner kicks, she is tall, she is big, she is physical and she is not afraid of anything. Luckily we have Molly [Frain] and Christina [Tkac] putting in really great corners.”
Rodriguez is getting big contributions throughout her roster. “The entire lineup is filling their roles and that is the thing that we talk about all the time,” said Rodriguez.
“Some people I might expect to be up here on a daily basis and their teammates look to them for that and then there are some people where I just need that consistency. We are filling our roles really, really well as a team and that is what it comes down to.”
As PHS looks ahead to the Mercer County Tournament, which starts next week, Rodriguez believes that her players are primed to do some damage in the competition.
“We want to be able to play with anybody in this league and I think on our best day with everybody healthy and working their best, we can compete this year,” said Rodriguez, whose team fell 2-0 to Hopewell Valley last Monday to move to 7-4-1 and plays at Lawrence on October 10 before hosting Notre Dame on October 14.
“I am looking forward to it. These girls deserve it. They have put in their time, there are eight seniors. They are a really great group of girls, the team chemistry is there. It is all flowing, it just needs to continue coming together for them.”
Rougas, for her part, sees that chemistry as a key ingredient in the team’s success.
“It is just continuing what we have been doing this whole season which is pretty positive,” said Rougas.
“We have been moving the ball around, working as a team. There is no person that really stands out, it is a team effort.”