September 6, 2017

Despite Losing 3 Standouts to Academy System, PDS Girls’ Soccer Has the Talent to Stay Competitive

ONE-TWO PUNCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer defenders Madison Coyne, right, and Becca Kuzmicz control the ball in a recent training session. PDS will be depending on senior co-captains Coyne and Kuzmicz to anchor the back line the fall. The Panthers open their 2017 season by playing at the George School (Pa.) on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Months before the 2017 season began, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team was hit with adversity.

Due to academy system rules promulgated by the U.S. Soccer Federation that prevent players from competing for both high school and club programs, PDS lost the services of three of its top returning players, senior goalie Grace Barbara, senior midfielder Damali Simon-Ponte, and junior midfielder Madison McCaw. This trio helped the Panthers share the state Prep B title and advance to the Mercer County Tournament final last year on the way to posting a 17-1-4 final record.

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta acknowledges that there will be some bumps in the road as he works some new faces into the rotation.

“We have got out work cut out for us because of the inexperience and the youth on the team,” said Trombetta, whose team opens its 2017 season by playing at George School (Pa.) on September 8.

“We are going to have to overcome some hurdles and we are going to have a learning curve and so forth. It is a good group and I think they will compete at the end.”

Trombetta will be leaning on senior stalwarts Madison Coyne and Becca Kuzmicz to help the team’s younger players get up to speed.

“Our captains are Maddie and Becca, they are the only two seniors,” said Trombetta.

“They are doing a great job in their role trying to build team chemistry because we have a very young team.”

The pair of Coyne and Kuzmicz will also anchor the Panther back line as center backs.

“Maddie has tremendous field awareness, she has the ability to switch fields and get a ball downfield 30 or 40 yards,” said Trombetta.

“With her poise out there, she has great leadership ability on the field. Becca is a physical player. She is very strong in the air and gives us options on set pieces and corner kicks. She is a payer who has matured over the years and is a very good leader.”

The Panthers also boast two good options at outside back in sophomore Tulsi Pari and freshman Sophia Miranda.

“Tulsi is very valuable as far as getting forward and getting involved in the attack but also the ability to recover as well,” added Trombetta.

“Her speed and decision-making as far as when to get forward is very good. The other other outside back is going to be Sophia Miranda. Sophia is a lefty similar to Emily Simons who gave us a left foot from that position last year. Sophia also has similar characteristics to Tulsi in the ability to get forward. She has a tremendous cross too with her left foot.”

Sophomore Riley Felsher brings character and ability as she assumes the formidable task of succeeding star goalie Barbara, who has committed to attend Princeton University and play for its women’s soccer program.

“Riley works hard; her work ethic is second to none. She trains outside of school all year round,” said Trombetta.

“She has a tremendous work rate; she is very coachable and  has good shot blocking ability. Now it is just the game experience. She has a strong back four in front of her and that is going to help too throughout the season.”

PDS figures to have a strong midfield, led by a trio of juniors, Charlotte Meyercord, Brianna Astbury, and Kelsey Lane along with sophomore Ariana Jones.

“We are going to have Bri Astbury and Charlotte Meyercord at the outside mid positions, both of them are returning players and fit in the system well,” said Trombetta, noting that junior Isabel Hogshire is also in the midfield mix.

“On the inside, you will have Kelsey Lane and Ariana Jones coming back. A freshman, Anna Ellwood, has been doing very well.”

Another freshman, Kelly Beal, should give the Panther attack a lift.

“Kelly Beal is probably going to be a starting forward,” said Trombetta, who will also be using junior Brooke Smukler up top.

“Kelly has tremendous foot skills and breakaway speed so we expect a lot of big things from her. Brooke will be on the field, either in the striker position or an attacking mid. She is going to see a lot of minutes as well.”

In Trombetta’s view, the blend of experience and precocious talent can make PDS a force to be reckoned with by the time postseason play rolls around.

“You have got players who have been in our system before; we have players who have played for us on championship teams in the past and that can only help,” said Trombetta.

“We are going to have to receive some major contributions from our freshman class. We expect a learning curve there but some of these players have the ability to be impact players and they are going to have to learn quickly and adapt to high school soccer. It is going to take some time but I think the talent is there for us to put it together come tournament time.”