With Senior Snyder Guiding the Back Line, PHS Field Hockey Rolls Into MCT Quarters
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Princeton High field hockey player Julia Snyder heads up the field on a penalty corner in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Snyder has helped solidify things on the back line for PHS as it has enjoyed another winning season. The Little Tigers improved to 11-4-2 and posted their fifth straight shutout with a 5-0 win over Ewing last Saturday in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. Fifth-seeded PHS was slated to play at No. 4 Pennington in the MCT quarterfinals on October 20 with winner advancing to the semifinals on October 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
For Julia Snyder, the Senior Day ceremony for the Princeton High field hockey team last Wednesday helped put in perspective how far she has come during her career.
“I have been playing center back now for three years and just being back there for our last home game, I remember my first time doing it and the difference in who I am now, going from a sophomore to now being a senior,” said senior defender and co-captain Snyder, reflecting on the pre-game festivities that took place before the Little Tigers faced Nottingham.
“Coming in as a sophomore during my first year on the team, the captains would lead me and give me a lot of direction. Something I always had to work on was communication on the field and being a voice in the back. I am able to see the whole field and communicate who is behind people to all the other players.”
Snyder’s voice was heard loud and clear along the back line as PHS stifled Nottingham on the way to a 7-0 victory.
“I think things are really clicking for us at the end of the regular season and I think it is going to follow us into postseason,” said Snyder.
“In our past two games, we have had this goal to get a score in the first seven minutes and we have succeeded in that.”
On Saturday, PHS experienced success in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament as the fifth-seeded Little Tigers defeated No. 12 Ewing 5-0 to post its fifth straight shutout.
“We definitely are coming together,” said Snyder, reflecting on the play of the PHS defensive unit. “We are getting used to marking and communicating with each other, seeing who is open. Communication is a big part that we have been working on. Our focus is partly marking, just knowing who you are going to be on before it is too late and you are down in the circle.”
PHS head coach Heather Serverson liked the focus her team displayed in the win over Nottingham.
“I think it’s good to make sure that you are tying up some loose ends,” said Serverson.
“We had some things we were working on today, like switching fields and drawing corners. I think we were successful with those things. We were also working on purposeful passing, that was the one they did the best on today.”
The team’s group of seniors has showed a sense of purpose over their careers.
“I think over the years they have provided the commitment and leadership that was established before they got here but they continued that tradition,” said Serverson, whose Class of 2016 includes Natalie Campisi, Maggie Lynch, Lucia Matteo, Trish Reilly, and Maggie Welch in addition to Snyder.
“Even in the last four years having this group of seniors we have improved from year one through year four as well. They have done a good job teaching the younger girls how to replace them well.”
In Serverson’s view, Snyder has grown into a key leader for the Little Tigers. “Julia has really developed with her vocal leadership,” said Serverson.
“She has always been a good role model but I think now she feels more confident and she is able to guide the girls on the field as well. I think that has really paid off.”
Snyder’s guidance has helped the PHS defensive unit become a strength of the team.
“They are a solid unit; I think that line probably has the most depth of any line that we have on this team,” asserted Serverson. “I feel confident with most of those girls on the field at any time.”
As PHS turns its focus to postseason success, Serverson is confident that the team’s offense can be more balanced.
“I think we are still relying heavily on certain players but I think the others are coming along,” added Serverson, who got two goals apiece from junior star Avery Peterson and freshman standout Mariana Lopez-Ona in the win over Ewing in the MCT opener.
“We have really been working on it, the quick shots, shooting from different angles, tipping. It is a lot of what our practice has been about so hopefully as we progress through the tournament, that will get better and better.
Having progressed to the MCT semis in 2013 and the title game last fall Serverson believes that her squad can make another deep tournament run.
“We are healthy, school isn’t overwhelming right now, and the weather has been great,” said Serverson, whose team was slated to play at No. 4 Pennington in the MCT quarterfinals on October 20 with winner advancing to the semifinals on October 22.
“It seems like all the variables have been moving in our favor. I think we are finally starting to pull the loose ends together. I think we are starting to solidify and function as a team on the field as opposed to 11 players on the field.”
Snyder, for her part, is confident that PHS can take the next step. “We are trying to take this whole thing home,” said Snyder.
“In my sophomore year we made it to the semis, in my junior year we were in the finals, and this year as a senior hopefully we will win the whole thing. I think the improvement we have shown from the beginning of the season to now reflects greatly upon us. It shows that we can identify our issues, improve them, and work on them. It is only going to make us a stronger team.”