Junior Rebak Thriving in Central Role on Defense As PHS Field Hockey Looking Formidable at 7-0
LEADING FROM THE BACK: Princeton High field hockey player Grace Rebak, right, fights for the ball in a game earlier this fall. Junior star defender and co-captain Rebak has helped PHS produce a 7-0 start. The Tigers host Hightstown on October 29 before playing at Lawrence High on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Grace Rebak moved to the middle of the defense for the Princeton High field hockey team last fall and has now assumed a central role for the squad.
“I played left back my freshman year and then I started playing center back my sophomore year,” said PHS junior star and co-captain Rebak.
“Now junior year, I am just having a voice back there along with my goalie [Frankie deFaria]. We are talking really well this year and we are communicating really well.”
Last week, PHS talked the talk and walked the walk, edging Allentown 1-0 in a tense encounter on October 20.
“They are our rival so we get really pumped for this game every year,” said Rebak.
“Our team is coming out really strong this year. Last year we lost to them so we just wanted to come back and fight against them. It was definitely a tough battle today. Our defensive line was getting a lot of action; we actually haven’t had a lot of action in these past few games.”
Rebak got into the action at the offensive end, making several forays into the circle.
“I like to switch with the defense a lot when I feel it is definitely getting close; I like to control it,” said Rebak, who also plays for Princeton Field Hockey Club.
“I like to get into the corners a lot to get the opportunity. That is how I scored my goal against Steinert (in an 8-1 win on October 6). I just want to get my opportunities in there too.”
Reflecting on the win over Allentown, Rebak believes that it set up PHS for a good stretch run.
“This is definitely a good step forward, I think from now on we are going to excel,” said Rebak.
“We have a couple bigger games later in our season. Lawrence is coming up, that should be a big game. We have to prepare for that and this was good preparation.”
Excelling as a leader, Rebak was elevated to team co-captain as a junior.
“It is definitely a big honor, I am really excited about it,” said Rebak, whose co-captain is senior Shoshi Henderson. “I am really glad I got that role this year.”
With in-person schooling not starting at PHS until October 19, Rebak and her teammates have been very glad to get daily time on the field.
“It is a good exit to get all of your energy out and that is what makes us play super hard at practice,” said Rebak.
“We put it all on the field because we are all stuck inside all day. It is great.”
Working hard at practice is translating into sharp play during games.
“We are working on moving to the ball more, being the first to the ball, that is a big thing that our coach [Heather Serverson] says,” added Rebak
“It is moving to the ball, reversing the ball and being aggressive. We are connecting well even though we didn’t have a preseason.”
Serverson liked the way her team connected in the win over Allentown.
“We are always expecting a challenge from Allentown, it is never an easy game,” said Serverson.
“They brought their A-game, we just had to tighten some of the issues that we had early on. Once we started connecting and thinking a play ahead, it worked a lot better than it did in the beginning when we weren’t playing that well.”
PHS came up with a big play late in the second quarter as Henderson flicked a shot past the Allentown goalie for the only goal of the contest.
“Shoshi has been playing better and better every game,” said Serverson.
“She is getting better on her feet with her skills in front of the goalie. She is very fast; she has been flying for us too on corners because she is so long and fast.”
The Tiger defense showed its skill, sparked by junior goalie deFaria, who made seven saves in the win.
“Frankie had some awesome saves back there, she is just doing a great job communicating,” said Serverson.
“We have been working on the marking. I saw lots of improvements in that today, so that was awesome to see. They are just really starting to click, they are finally learning how the others play.”
Serverson credits Rebak with helping the team click all over the field.
“Grace is getting more offensive as the season goes on,” said Serverson.
“I think she is getting excited, seeing how her stick work is developing and her offensive skills are developing. In the past she just read plays very well defensively, now she is also engaged in the possession part.”
With PHS improving to 7-0 with an 8-0 win over Nottingham last Thursday, Serverson is excited about how things are going.
“I am just so happy that even though we didn’t have that familiarity, they are picking it up so quickly,” said Serverson, whose team hosts Hightstown on October 29 before playing at Lawrence High on November 3.
“I could not ask for a better team, they are such hockey students. In practice we are doing something and the next day, they use it in the game. I can’t ask for more than that.”
While Rebak wishes there were more games in a campaign shortened by COVID-19 concerns, she believes that the Tigers can still have a memorable fall if they fine-tune things.
“I would love to have a longer season but we are definitely off to a good start and I hope to finish it well,” said Rebak.
“In the bigger games, we need to work on sitting back a little more. We can’t get caught out because that is how the breakaways happen. We have to communicate on the defensive line, one of us has to stay back at all times. We have to work on being the first to the ball on the faster turfs. I think we are going to be good.”