October 25, 2017

After Pulling Major Upsets in Stirring MCT Run, PHS Field Hockey Falls to Lawrenceville in Final

RED ALERT: Princeton High field hockey goalie Kate Rogers (No. 88) holds the fort as sixth-seeded PHS battled top-seeded and defending champion Lawrenceville in the Mercer County Tournament title game last Saturday at Mercer County Community College. Senior star goalie Rogers made 13 saves but it wasn’t enough as the Little Tigers fell 5-0 to the powerful Big Red, the winners of six of the last seven MCT crowns. PHS, now 10-6-2, starts play in the public state tournament later this week, where it is seeded fifth in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional and plays at No. 4 Lenape in a quarterfinal contest on October 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton High field hockey team, its run to the Mercer County tournament final amounted to a revenge tour.

Sixth-seeded PHS avenged regular season defeats as it topped third-seeded Robbinsville 2-1 in the MCT quarterfinals on October 17 and second-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the semis last Thursday.

In the final against top-seeded Lawenceville last Saturday evening, the Little Tigers got a chance to make amends for another earlier loss as it had lost 6-0 to the Big Red on September 29.

For nearly 13 minutes in the title game held at Mercer County Community College, the tenacious PHS squad held the fort, thwarting Lawrenceville as the Big Red dominated possession and generated a number of scoring chances to no avail.

But the Big Red broke through with a goal at the 13:07 mark and added two more tallies to take a 3-0 lead at halftime. In the second half, Lawrenceville tacked on two more unanswered goals to win 5-0 and earn its sixth MCT crown in the last seven years.

Notwithstanding the final score, PHS head coach Heather Serverson was proud of how her defensive unit battled in the face of the Lawrenceville onslaught.

“They are solid, especially with Lily and Kate in there,” said Serverson referring to senior defender Lily Leonard and senior goalie Kate Rogers. “We just couldn’t seem to stop all of the shots that they took; they were great shots.”

Getting its first shot at the county title since making the MCT final in 2014 marked a nice turnaround from a shaky start which saw the Little Tigers go 1-3-1 in its first five games this fall.

“Our goal was to change the result of some of our losses from earlier in the season and we did that,” said Serverson, whose team moved to 10-6-2 with the loss to Lawrenceville.

“I told them before the game, no matter what happens with the outcome of this game, you made it to the finals. Looking at how we started our season, to be able to transform the way that we did was great.”

In reflecting on PHS’s late surge, Serverson credited the squad’s seniors with having a great influence on their younger teammates.

“I think they just really helped to keep the other girls calm and resilient in the stressful situations because they themselves have had these experiences before,” said Serverson, whose contingent of seniors included Lisette Dubow, Margaret Jacobs, and Chloe Koehler, in addition to Leonard and Rogers.

“The younger ones weren’t exactly sure what to expect but I think just hearing their voices on the field and the confidence that they bring for the younger players really helped and paid off.”

In Serverson’s view, learning those lessons will pay off down the road.

“I think it shows the younger players what they are capable of,” said Serverson.

“We might not have all of that consistency that we need yet. I think it is a good experience because it shows them at a young age, look what we were able to do, so imagine what we can do moving forward.”

With PHS starting play in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional where it is seeded fifth and will play at fourth seeded Lenape in a quarterfinal contest on October 28, Serverson believes her team is capable of another big tournament run.

“We have been playing as a unit and that is what I have been emphasizing with them from the beginning,” said Serverson.

“We played like individuals in the beginning and that is why we were losing and now we are more aware of where our teammates are at. It has just made a huge difference; now we just need to start peppering the goal like Lawrenceville does.”