Senior Midfielder Ponce Saving Best for Last, Helping PHS Girls’ Soccer Produce 6-2-1 Start
HEAD IN THE GAME: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Vanessa Ponce heads the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior midfielder Ponce tallied a goal to help PHS defeat Ewing 6-0. On Saturday, Ponce added another goal as the Tigers defeated Hightstown 3-0. PHS, now 6-2-1, hosts Lawrence High on November 4 before playing at Trenton Central on November 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Vanessa Ponce strives to jump start things offensively for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team from her spot in the midfield.
“I like controlling the ball, I just want to make sure that the tempo is right,” said senior midfielder Ponce.
“We are out here to play. We are taking it game by game. We have to take every opportunity and really make sure that we are taking advantage of that to be better.”
Last Wednesday, Ponce helped PHS take advantage of its opportunities, tallying a goal and doing some nifty playmaking as the Tigers defeated Ewing 6-0.
“We were just looking to get back to the place we were at the beginning of the season,” said Ponce.
“This game was kind of like Hamilton West (a 6-0 win on October 3). I think we did a good job.”
In the victory over Ewing, four other Tigers besides Ponce found the back of the net with junior Sophia Lis tallying two goals and an assist, freshman Casey Serxner notching a goal and an assist, and junior Megan Rougas and freshman Holly Howes chipping in one goal apiece.
“I think it helps with the team dynamic; it brings us ever closer because we try to put each other in the best positions as possible,” said Ponce, reflecting on the balanced scoring. “That is what makes it fun.”
In Ponce’s view, PHS is more dynamic offensively this fall than it has been in the past.
“Last year it was a little bit difficult finding feet,” said Ponce, who added a goal on Saturday to help PHS defeat Hightstown 3-0 and improve to 6-2-1.
“This year, the connection is better. This year we are finding ourselves more. We are using ourselves better, putting ourselves in the best position possible.”
Ponce has toiled diligently to have the best senior season possible.
“I have been putting in a lot more work this year and I feel like that is showing compared to the previous years,” said Ponce, who is looking to play at the college level. “I am just really happy with the team and where we are at.”
PHS head coach Val Rodriguez is very happy with how Ponce is playing in her final campaign.
“Vanessa is such a hard worker, she deserves it,” said Rodriguez. “She is tricky, she has had that since I have known her as a freshman. She has just the passion for the game that a lot of kids don’t possess. She just works on skills and self-assesses.
The Tigers put in some good work collectively in pulling away to the win over Ewing.
“We have shut down since Friday so we needed to get the rust off of our feet, to move the ball around, and get people with some more confidence,” said Rodriguez.
“It was just a matter of knocking the ball around, being creative with it, having some fun with the offense and working on our shape. One of our focuses is finding the end line and getting the ball across the back so that is what we worked on today.”
The pair of Serxner and Rougas helped spark the PHS offense.
“Casey has a good future for this program and for herself,” said Rodriguez.
“She is a good player, she is a hard worker also. She is smart. There are a lot of times when she could have been selfish and she dished it. I like to see that. Megan finally got one. She mishits the ball every once in a while and that’s frustrating. She is a good player, she is in the right place. She does the right things so it will start to come together for her.”
While the Tiger defense has been shaky at times this fall, things came together at that end against the Blue Devils.
“It is always good to get a clean sheet because you want to take away the errors,” said Rodriguez.
“I think that some of the goals we have let in weren’t great goals against. It came down to an individual error, a lapse of judgment or a mis-hit ball. When it wasn’t sharp today, someone else was there to clean it up.”
Having gone through a tough stretch in mid-October which saw the Tigers fall 3-0 to Hopewell Valley on October 17 and 4-1 to Allentown on October 21, PHS is looking sharper and sharper with tournament play around the corner.
“The gut of our season was very tough, we had no break and we got banged up in the process,” said Rodriguez.
“So we didn’t have a full roster going into that one week and that obviously hurt us. We went up against some good teams and no discredit to them at all but I think we can compete if we are healthy. We have three games left and I expect us to go 3-0 to get ready for states, get momentum, confidence, and hopefully time to get some people healthy again.”
Ponce, for her part, is ready for a big finish to her high school career.
“We are trying to get our momentum back up; we had a couple of injuries,” said Ponce. “We are trying to keep positive energy.”