September 5, 2018

PDS Girls’ Soccer Facing Major Challenges But Has Energy, Skill to Maintain Winning Ways

HIGH SCORER: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Kelly Beal controls the ball in 2017 action. Sophomore forward Beal, the leading scorer for PDS last fall as it won a fifth straight state Prep B title, will look to build on the success she experienced in her debut campaign. The Panthers kick off regular season play by hosting George School (Pa.) on September 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team heads into the 2018 season, it faces some big challenges.

First, the squad suffered a major loss with the graduation of senior star defenders and team leaders Madi Coyne and Rebecca Kuzmicz.

“We are still trying to figure out how we are going to fill that void,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta, who led the Panthers to a 12-6-1 record in 2017 and its fifth straight state Prep B title. “We might have some new faces in the back that have not been tested.”

In addition, the Panthers will be tested by a gauntlet of formidable foes. “I see this as probably the most challenging schedule we have had in my 12 years,” said Trombetta. “We have added schools like Pingry, Lenape, and Princeton High.”

The Panthers will need to keep their heads as they deal with such high-powered opponents.

“One of the keys to our success is how we deal with adversity,” said Trombetta.

“We are going to face it during the season with our schedule and overall. We have somewhat of a quiet team; we are looking for some vocal leadership on the field.”

PDS features players who can make noise at forward in sophomores Ariana Jones and Kelly Beal along with senior Brooke Smukler.

“Ariana had a great second half of the season so we are hoping that she gets off to a quick start this year,” said Trombetta.

“Kelly Beal was our leading scorer last year; she has the explosiveness that you are looking for in an attacking player. Brooke Smukler is coming into her senior year in the best shape I have seen here. I see a determination, she made a complete commitment to her fitness over her summer and has come to preseason in top shape.”

In the center of the midfield, the Panthers will be depending on a trio of determined performers.

“We are going to be looking at Jules Romano, who had a solid season last year as a freshman,” said Trombetta.

“Brianna Astbury is back for her third season. Freshman Ali Surace has been a tremendous surprise. She has a very, very good work rate and it rubs off on other players. I think she is going to be a special player for us.”

Sophomores Sophia Miranda and Tulsi Pari could be moving up the field this year from the back line.

“Sophia and Tulsi were lock-down outside defenders for us last year,” said Trombetta. “They are so explosive with the ball at their feet as well; we might use them in different roles this year.”

On defense, Kelsey Lane will be playing a key role. “Kelsey is a senior and I expect her to be the leader in the back,” said Trombetta.

“She will have Anna Ellwood, a sophomore, on one side of her and then another freshman, Ariana’s sister, Cailyn Jones, is a promising player too.”

Junior Riley Felsher made progress last fall as she took over at goalie for star Grace Barbara, now playing for the Princeton University women’s soccer squad.

“Riley will be our starting keeper; filling Grace’s shoes was a big thing for her,” said Trombetta.

“She showed up in tournament time. She showed up in the Steinert game in the counties. She had two or three shutouts in the preps; it was 0-0 in the final.”

Trombetta, for his part, believes the Panthers can be a force again by tournament time.

“We are seeing progress in each scrimmage, which is positive,” said Trombetta. “We are excited. It is an energetic, talented team. It is a matter of playing a little differently this year because we don’t have the size from last year.”