May 12, 2021

With Surace Emerging as Offensive Force, PDS Girls’ Lax Primed for Stretch Drive

RACING TO GOAL: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Ali Surace sprints upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior midfielder Surace tallied three goals and an assist in a losing cause as PHS fell 14-12 to Blair Academy. On Monday, Surace scored two goals but it wasn’t enough as third-seeded PDS fell 24-5 at second-seeded Trinity Hall in the state Prep B semifinals. The Panthers, now 6-3, host the Hun School on May 14 and the Hill School (Pa.) on May 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Ali Surace emerged as a key defensive performer for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team as a freshman during the 2019 season.

After not getting to play last year when the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic, Surace has transformed herself into a different player this spring, making an impact at the attacking end.

“I feel like freshman year I played all defense, so it has been great to play midfield,” said junior standout Surace.

“I have been working really hard on shooting more and attacking more because I am not normally in that role. I have been working on driving more and really working it up top.”

Last Saturday against visiting Blair Academy, Surace displayed her attacking prowess, tallying three goals and an assist but it wasn’t enough as a late PDS rally fell short in a 14-12 loss to the Buccaneers.

“We started off really strong, I think in all of our games we have started off really strong,” said Surace, who notched two first half goals as the Panthers built an early 5-4 lead.

“We have had a lot coming from the underclassmen like Tessa [Caputo] and Paige [Gardner]. Everybody worked really hard.”

But Blair responded by ending the half with four straight goals to build an 8-5 advantage at halftime. After falling behind 11-6 early in the second half, PDS battled valiantly but never got closer than two goals.

“We had some big plays and we were getting some big turnovers, we were getting better on the draws,” said Surace.

“We had the heart. We were coming back, we just ran out of time.”

Surace, who also plays soccer and basketball at PDS, shows heart throughout the school year as she juggles the three sports.

“I love playing every sport possible and I love competing,” said Surace. “I think it is great to be part of a team and compete.”

She inherited that will to compete from her parents as Surace’s father, Bob, is a former All-Ivy League center for the Princeton University football team and has been the head coach of the program since the 2010 season and her mother, Lisa, starred for the Tiger women’s soccer team and is now the associate head of school at PDS.

“We definitely have a very sports-minded household, we go on family runs or lift as a family,” said Surace, whose younger brother A.J. plays football and baseball at Notre Dame High.

“Growing up in that environment has been amazing. I love it. Everything we do is about working hard and competing. They push me really hard which is great.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas likes the way Surace is competing this spring.

“That was a goal of hers to get a hat trick and she got it; she is tough,” said Thomas of Surace.

“It is tough to play midfield when we go up and down. She is doing a good job for us so we are real happy for her.”

In reflecting on the rally against Blair, Thomas tipped her hat to the Panther defensive unit.

“I think what I was most proud of today was Hailey Wexler in goal and that the defense did what we wanted them to do,” said Thomas.

“I have got to give a shout out to the defense. Ella McIntyre, Alex Hollander, Vanessa Devin, and Caroline Topping came to play today. We worked all of yesterday on talking and communication and we just shut them down.”

Thomas acknowledged that her squad needed to be more flexible when Blair shut it down after its early run.

“We start fast, they make an adjustment and we didn’t adjust,” said Thomas, whose team got off to an uncharacteristic slow start last Monday as third-seeded PDS fell 24-5 to second-seeded Trinity Hall in the state Prep B semis to move to 6-3. “We have got to do a better job of that when we have the ball.”

With the Panthers hosting the Hun School on May 14 and the Hill School (Pa.) on May 18, Thomas will be looking for her squad to respond better when it is hit with a run of goals.

“In close games, you have to have an answer, we had too big of a gap without an answer and then we rallied,” said Thomas.

“We are down three, we have to answer. We can’t have three unanswered goals against those top teams. When we figure that out, we are going to be just fine.”

Surace, for her part, believes that the Panthers have been rallying around each other as they have returned to action this spring.

“We have been doing really well, it has been good,” said Surace. “We have really stepped up this season and everyone wants to win. Just to have a season this year is amazing.”