Showing Gratitude Through Preseason Training, PDS Field Hockey Excited for 2020 Campaign
ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School field hockey player Jadyn Huff, left, controls the ball in a game last year. Sophomore forward Huff figures to be a go-to finisher for PDS this fall. The Panthers start their 2020 season by hosting the Pennington School on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
There is a sense of gratitude for the Princeton Day School field hockey team as it has toiled through its preseason training.
With PDS having closed to in-person learning in March and the fall season in doubt for many months, the Panthers players were excited to get the go-ahead to start practice on August 24.
“It has been good for the kids to get back doing a fall sport and having a preseason after not being in school for almost five months,” said PDS head coach Heather Farlow, who guided the Panthers to an 8-7-3 record in 2019 and a trip to the state Prep B final.
“It is a nice change for all of them. It is challenging in so many ways but the kids have been really resilient and are just appreciating the connections with each other so much more.”
Farlow appreciates the leadership she is getting from senior captains Gianna Gasparro, Skye Harris, Olivia Phillips, and Aaliyah Sayed.
“I have four seniors returning from last year and because I knew that we were going to have to have smaller groups, these four seniors worked with me all summer,” said Farlow, whose team begins regular season action by hosting the Pennington School on October 2.
“They were thinking up team activities, they took a captain’s leadership course. All four of those seniors are captains. They lead pods through warmup and cool down. They do exercises on different parts of the field, everybody is separated.”
Adding depth, the Panthers picked up two senior newcomers, Hannah Choe and Caroline Topping, who had been planning to play volleyball this fall.
“Since volleyball got moved to February, they wanted a sports season,” said Farlow, noting that the program has drawn 29 players this fall, allowing it to field a full junior varsity squad as well as the varsity team.
“They were afraid that things might shut down at some point; they wanted as much of a sports season as possible so they came out. Hannah Choe played ice hockey and Caroline Topping played lacrosse and basketball.”
Topping has stepped into a key role as she is sharing goalie duties with junior returner Frances Bobbitt as they succeed four-year starter and Cornell recruit Lexie Hausheer.
“Caroline and Frances Bobbitt are both playing goalie, it will probably be a rotation,” said Farlow.
“Caroline is a former soccer player; she is good little athlete and has just taken naturally to playing. Frances has experience and was able to play some this summer.”
The PDS back line will be spearheaded by junior Franny Gallagher along with captains Harris, Gasparro, and Phillips, freshman Logan Harrison, and junior Rebecca Willner.
“We are going to have Franny in the back, she has composure on the ball and good decision-making,” said Farlow.
“She will be the leader back there for sure. Liv is coming back, she was our left back last year. She has great speed. Gianna and Skye are going to be in the rotation. We have a freshman, Logan, who also plays ice hockey and she is going to be a strong back for us. Rebecca played JV last year, she will be one of the backs rotating.”
At forward, Farlow is looking for junior Haley Sullivan, sophomore Jadyn Huff, junior Ally Antonacci, sophomore Sophia Jaffe, and sophomore Anna Terry to provide offensive production.
“Haley does great leads; she and Jadyn work well together,” said Farlow.
“Jadyn has great ball control and she is a die-hard field hockey player. She loves it and she is good at it. She is going to step up for us as a sophomore, she will be great. We have Ally back. Sophia also plays lacrosse and she has stepped up. Anna has an explosive first step. She is a good athlete, she can carry the ball and is a little more confident. Her hits have become stronger and more consistent.”
In the midfield, junior Maggie Zarish-Yasunas and captain Sayed will be leading the way.
“Maggie’s stick skills have really come along, she has gotten much stronger on the ball,” said Farlow.
“She is going to do a nice job for us in the midfield. Sayed played left mid for us last year; she has become stronger and more consistent.”
While there will be no Prep B tourney or Mercer County Tournament this fall, Farlow still believes there is still plenty for the Panthers to play for in a schedule that features games mainly against three opponents, Pennington, Hun School, and Stuart Country Day.
“Our goal is to learn the game, have fun, and we still want to be as competitive as we can be to feel that sense of accomplishment,” said Farlow, whose coaching staff will include former Princeton University field hockey star Annabeth Donovan, Brandi Ritz, the director of field hockey at Centercourt Sports in Lawrence, and current Princeton standout Claire Donovan, who is deferring her junior year.
“But it is really about participating in high school sports and getting that full experience. I think it will actually be a good season. We are planning our Senior Day for the first game of the season which we typically don’t do but we want to make sure that they are celebrated because you don’t know what is going to happen.”