October 21, 2020

Junior Lis Returning From Knee Injury with a Bang, Emerging as Go-To Finisher for PHS Girls’ Soccer

BACK IN THE FLOW: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Sophia Lis controls the ball last Wednesday against Notre Dame. Junior star Lis tallied two goals to help PHS rally from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to pull out a 4-3 win overtime. Returning to action from missing all of 2019 due to a knee injury, Lis tallied eight goals in the first four games of the season. PHS, which fell 3-0 to Hopewell Valley last Saturday to move to 3-1-1, plays at Allentown on October 21 before hosting Nottingham on October 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

During the 2019 season, Sophia Lis’ role on the Princeton High girls’ soccer squad was confined to cheering on her teammates and occasionally serving as a ball girl while she was recovering from a knee injury.

Returning to action this fall, junior forward Lis has assumed a starring role, emerging as the go-to finisher for PHS.

Last Thursday, Lis displayed her scoring touch against Notre Dame, tallying two goals to help the Tigers rally from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to pull out a 4-3 win in overtime.

Lis is thrilled to be contributing again for PHS. “It is such a great feeling; I rehabbed all of last year during the season and I was ready this summer for my season and unfortunately due to corona we didn’t have the games,” said Lis, who tallied eight goals in the first four games of the season for the Tigers.

“So this is me getting back into games and getting my stamina back. I was nervous coming back. It is always that thing are you as good as you were before. I think I am finally getting back into my groove and feeling the same way.”

Against Notre Dame, PHS was not in a great groove as it fell behind 2-0 midway through the first half.

“I thought we were overall possessing the ball well in the midfield but we just couldn’t get that last transition,” said Lis.

“I was trying to stay high so the midfield could find me and play around that.”

With 7:57 left in the half, freshman Casey Serxner found Lis, chipping the ball to the junior who promptly buried it in the back of the net.

“Eventually they got that ball over and we got it in,” recalled Lis.

“It was important for our stamina, we were getting tired out there and falling off which shouldn’t happen since we started so strong. That goal rejuvenated us and we were ready to go again.”

But Notre Dame kept going strong after halftime, scoring again to go up 3-1. With 7:27 left in regulation, PHS senior midfielder Vanessa Ponce narrowed the gap to 3-2 as she curled in a free kick.

“We got that one goal that came from Van,” said Lis. “That was a great one. We play well together on the field, that goal was really clutch for us. It was like the first half goal, we were back in it.”

Two minutes later, Lis fought through a traffic jam in the box to slot the ball past the Irish goalie to make it 3-3 and force overtime.

“It was me trying to power through and finish off the play before it went out of bounds,” said Lis.

“I am just glad that I got to the ball before the goalie did because I didn’t want to interfere with the goalie. I was trying to get it right in front of her and luckily I did.”

Having played Steinert to a 3-3 draw through two overtimes on October 7, PHS was determined to close the deal against Notre Dame and did so as sophomore Sarah Granozio scored with 4:14 remaining in the first extra session.

“The Steinert game definitely prepared us for getting that last energy out of us,” said Lis. “We wanted it to be one overtime to end it and we got that.”

In the view of Lis, the rally spoke to the Tigers’ resolve.

“It says we can really find the energy and dig it deep out of us if we put our mind to it and play together as a team,” said Lis.

Playing up top with classmate Megan Rougas has given Lis extra energy on the field.

“Megan and I met freshman year. We didn’t even know each other before that, but our sisters did,” said Lis, whose older sisters Devon ’18 and Taylor ’16 were star athletes at PHS, as was Lauren Rougas ’20.

“It clicked instantly. It has been so fun; she definitely makes the team so much fun to play with.”

Being around the team has helped Lis return to form. “I feel like they have been so supportive with me during my injury and even afterwards, making sure I felt comfortable with everything,” added Lis.

“They really just made me feel comfortable on the field to play to my full potential.”

PHS head coach Val Rodriguez was not comfortable with the way her team was playing as it dug the early hole against Notre Dame.

“Our possession game looked very good early on,” said Rodriguez.

“Then we just made a few mistakes, doubted ourselves and started playing frantic. As soon as we found our feet again, we were able to knock it and get behind them and create good opportunities.”

Getting that tally to cut the deficit helped change the tone of the game for PHS.

“That first half goal was very important,” said Rodriguez. “We made some smart, very heads up plays on our set pieces there, having Vanessa [Ponce] place that perfectly, having Casey [Serxner] chip it, she made a beautiful chip to Sophia.”

Rodriguez saw Ponce’s goal as the turning point of the contest.

“To be down 3-1, you start to give up hope,” said Rodriguez. “Vanessa kept her composure and placed it exactly where it needed to be.”

The composure displayed by Lis around the goal is key to the Tiger offense.

“With Sophia’s talent and her knowledge of the game, she is our go-to, of course,” said Rodriguez. “We talk as a team in terms of we have a lot of go-tos but when push comes to shove, I trust that Sophia is going to get the job done.”

Seeing Granozio get the job done in overtime was heartening to Rodriguez.

“It was her first goal back in 18 months, she has been out for a long time,” said Rodriguez, whose team fell 3-0 to Hopewell Valley last Saturday to move to 3-1-1 and plays at Allentown on October 21 before hosting Nottingham on October 23.

“She is such a good kid; I wouldn’t want a different person in from of the goal right there.”

In the view of Rodriguez, her squad’s rally against Notre Dame was a good sign going forward.

“This continues to show that heart because there have been years where we have been in battles and we haven’t come out on top,” said Rodriguez, noting that back-up sophomore goalie Catie Samaan come off the bench to make two brilliant saves.

“I think that his team has that extra grit to go the length, play to the final whistle and come out on top.”

Lis is ready to keep going hard as long as the season lasts.

“We are trying to be as safe as possible outside of practices,” said Lis.

“We are bringing it to every single game, knowing it could be our last for a week or two with one case of corona. We are just trying to keep that energy up.”