October 25, 2017

PHS Turned Tables On Allentown in MCT Semis As Midfielder Lopez-Ona Triggered the Offense

STEPPING UP: Princeton High field hockey player Mariana Lopez-Ona races upfield in action last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior midfielder Lopez-Ona tallied a goal and an assist to help sixth-seeded PHS defeat second-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the MCT semis last Thursday. PHS went on to fall 5-0 to top-seeded Lawrenceville in the title game two days later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It turned into a case of dèjá vu for Mariana Lopez-Ona and the Princeton High field hockey team as they faced Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Thursday.

After having lost 2-1 in overtime to Allentown earlier in October, PHS battled the Redbirds to a 1-1 stalemate through regulation in the MCT contest, forcing another extra session.

Junior star midfielder Lopez-Ona sensed that sixth-seeded PHS was primed to turn the tables on second-seeded Allentown in the postseason rematch, which took place at Mercer County Community College.

“It is our second chance, let’s take it,” said Lopez-Ona, describing the team’s mind-set as it headed into overtime.

“Our intensity was high, we definitely felt the mood. We knew this was our game to win.”

Just 3:53 into the first overtime, Lopez-Ona made sure that PHS prevailed in round two, blasting a shot towards the goal that was directed into the back of the cage by junior Isabel Kinney.

“Luckily, the top opened up,” recalled Lopez-Ona. “Izzy was in a great position and had a great tip. Everything worked together.”

Lopez-Ona had opened the scoring in the contest, sprinting through and around the Allentown defense and then blasting a shot home at the 7:30 mark of the first half.

“I just saw the middle open up and I definitely took it,” said  Lopez-Ona. “Our forwards moved around and cut to keep their defenders moving and I had a clear path.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson was not surprised to see Lopez-Ona involved in both goals on the evening.

“Mariana is solid; she is such a hustler,” said Serverson.  “She is in such great shape and she has got great skills. She has her head into the game and it is very hard to knock her mentally off game.”

The Little Tigers had to keep their heads as Allentown scored late in the first half to make it 1-1 and then controlled possession for long stretches in the second half.

“It was definitely a rough time because we knew that they are a strong team and they can do it too,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We had to keep our intensity high the entire time and keep fighting and not let them get that again.”

Getting to the championship game was special for Lopez-Ona. “I have been in the semifinals for all three years of my high school career and this is my first year winning,” said Lopez-Ona. “I am feeling lucky.”

While PHS ended up losing 5-0 to top-seeded and defending champion Lawrenceville in the title game on Saturday, its MCT run exemplifies the progress made by the squad since struggling in the early going.

“We have gotten a lot stronger; I think everyone started working together,” said Lopez-Ona. “We are definitely getting our intensity higher and sooner in the games.”