December 2, 2020

PDS Girls’ Soccer Displayed Championship Form, Producing 10-Game Winning Streak in Going 10-1

BRINGING HER A-GAME: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Adriana Salzano controls the ball in a game this fall. Freshman Salzano made an immediate impact in her debut campaign for PDS, tallying nine goals and six assists. The Panthers ended the season in a 10-game winning streak, posting a final record of 10-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team didn’t get to play for any titles this fall with the state Prep B and Mercer County tournaments canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, the squad displayed championship form.

After dropping its season opener 3-2 to Monroe on October 1, PDS reeled off 10 straight victories to post a final record of 10-1.

The highlight of that winning streak came on November 7 when the Panthers played at defending state Group 4 champion and powerhouse Hunterdon Central on short notice and pulled  out a thrilling 2-1 triumph.

With a matchup against local rival Pennington having been canceled due to COVID protocols, PDS was looking for a challenge.

“We wanted to find a top-20 team, we found Bridgewater-Raritan, I think they were No. 19 at the time so we were all set to play Bridgewater on Saturday,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta.

“Then we get a call Thursday night saying that they are going under quarantine for a second time. On Friday morning, Hunterdon Central reaches out and says how about a game. They gave me 24 hours’ notice and, by the way, it is at their place.”

With no time to waste, Trombetta put together a game plan overnight.

“I reached out to a couple of coaches and they had game film on YouTube,” said Trombetta.

“On Friday night I was sitting here for three hours watching game film on them against Somerville and Watchung Hills, two good teams. So I was prepared as far as tactics. For us to come away with a win, everybody had their best game of the season.”

With Hunterdon Central featuring the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year and Rutgers recruit Emily Mason, Trombetta tweaked his defensive tactics.

“She is all over the field, she has free rein to do whatever she wants out there,” said Trombetta of Mason.

“She plays on the defensive end but goes forward a lot. We had to pick her up once she went over the midfield line. We had to play four in the back versus the three. We usually play with a 3-5-2 and we went with a 4-2-3-1; we went to a different formation and they girls executed the game plan perfectly.”

At the offensive end, PDS senior star Kelly Beal and precocious freshman Adriana Salzano found the back of the net.

“Kelly Beal got the first goal in that game and that was huge to be on the board first,” said Trombetta.

“That gave the girls a lot of confidence. They came right back and tied it up but then we scored again. The freshman Salzano scored, she had a fantastic season. All of the scoring was in the first half in that game. Veronica Vogelman had a couple of big saves for us in the second half, our defense played fantastic.”

For the Panthers, the fantastic triumph helped the players deal with not having a chance to compete in postseason play.

“The girls were warriors, they were psyched,” said Trombetta, whose program had won six straight state Prep B titles coming into 2020.

“We treated it as a championship-type game. Without being able to play in the tournaments, there are two games that we had circled on the calendar. It was Pennington and we replaced that with Hunterdon Central and then Camden Catholic.”

Building on the win over Hunterdon Central, PDS finished the season by defeating Camden Catholic 3-1 on November 9 and then topping St. Rose 5-0 in its season finale two days later.

“We know they are a strong team from South Jersey,” said Trombetta of Camden Catholic.

“We had to play them 48 hours later at their place at night and that was a nice win as well. We played St. Rose a couple of days later, it was great.”

Getting to play 11 games and continuing to improve in a fall impacted by COVID-19 concerns with resulting pauses and cancellations was an accomplishment in and of itself.

“The thing that was great was that we were pretty much able to get a full season in,” said Trombetta.

“We usually play about 13 or 14 regular season games and six tournament games. The main thing was to try to get a full schedule and trying to progress as the season went on. We peaked at the right time. The way I look at it, our success was because of our depth and our balance. We lost three seniors to season-ending injuries (Britney Chia, Vanessa Devin, and Anna Ellwood). For us to lose three seniors during the season and keep winning is a credit to our depth and other girls stepping up and making contributions.”

The squad’s Class of 2021, which included Sophie Miranda and Jules Romano in addition to Beal, Chia, Devin, and Ellwood, stepped up throughout their time with the program.

“I am going to miss this group, it is one of the more talented groups that we have had over the years with Kelly, Jules, Sophia, Anna, Britney, and Vanessa,” said Trombetta.

“It is tough to replace players like that; we are losing a lot from those girls. They made contributions all four years. As freshmen, they came in and started performing; we knew we were going to have a good few years ahead of us. We are going to miss them, they were the heart of our team and a lot of the girls looked up to them. They were good leaders and good for team chemistry. They took a lot of the younger girls under their wings.”

In Trombetta’s view, his younger players can demonstrate championship mettle going forward.

“You have got underclassmen such as Kiersten Ruf, Grace Romano, Adriana Salzano, and Tochi Owunna and the juniors are key with Ali Surace, Aislynn Macco, Cailyn Jones, Ava Mattson, and Veronica in goal,” said Trombetta.

“I am looking at those juniors to lead the team as well next year like the departing seniors did this year. I would expect the same from them next year.”