November 7, 2018

PHS Girls’ Soccer Falls in Sectional Quarters, But Junior Star Rougas Sees Positives from Run

IN THE CLEAR: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Lauren Rougas clears the ball up the field in recent action. Junior defender Rougas starred as PHS advanced to the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional quarterfinals where the eighth-seeded Little Tigers lost 4-0 at top-seeded Hunterdon Central last Friday. PHS finished the fall with a 9-7-2 record.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Lauren Rougas and her fellow defenders on the Princeton High girls’ soccer team knew they faced a challenge when they played at high-powered Hunterdon Central in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional quarterfinals last Friday.

“Our defensive game plan was to just play as a unit and pass the ball around and keep possession on the offense,” said Rougas.”We wanted to keep our defensive stance and play as hard as we could.”

The eighth-seeded Little Tigers were under the gun in the first half, battling to hold the fort as top-seeded Hunterdon Central generated a slew of shots and took a 2-0 lead into intermission.

“They did have a lot of shots but I think we were very consistent in the first half,” said Rougas. “We never gave up.”

The Little Tigers got worn down by the Red Devils in the second half, losing 4-0 to end the fall with a 9-7-2 record.

“We didn’t have a lot of subs going in for us, but we played around that as best we could,” said Rougas. “I think it helps us for next year to just  know what we have to work on.”

Ending the year by advancing to the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament as well as the state sectional was a confidence builder for PHS.

“Towards the end of the season we started playing more as a unit instead of for individuals,” said Rougas of PHS, which edged Lawrence in the first round of the MNCT a week after losing 3-0 to the Cardinals in a regular season contest.“Beating Lawrence in counties was awesome.”

Rougas shouldered responsibility for getting the Little Tigers on the same page. “I learned what the players need; I progressed throughout the season as a leader,” said Rougas.

PHS head coach Val Rodriguez credited Rougas with becoming a force along the back line for PHS this fall.

“Lauren is a tremendous player; we moved her to the center mid at one point today and just like that they put two more in,” said Rodriguez.“That just shows how much of an impact she has back there. She is a really good leader and has a presence on the field. She is physical and has a great air game. She motivates the team really, really well; she is just a smart player.”

Rodriguez was pleased with her team’s effort in defeat against Hunterdon Central.

“They are a talented team that we just went up against, they have a lot of speed on their team,” said Rodriguez.

“We ran a 4-5-1 formation, which we have been doing recently, because it allows us to defend well but get numbers into the attack when possible. It was just a matter of go in and try to win 50/50s and be physical. We played the whole 80 minutes hard; it is a lot to ask of a team in a game like that and really bring for 80 minutes when they are scoring four goals against you. I think we gave it what we had. We can’t leave here disappointed in ourselves.”

Junior goalie Caroline Ealy gave her all against the  Red Devils, making 14 saves in defeat, including several point blank stops.

“I thought Caroline had her best game of the year,” asserted Rodriguez. “She had really big saves and communicated well. She came off of her line well today.”

Rodriguez likes the way her team played well down the stretch of the season as it won three of its last five games.

“We came out in the counties with a really solid game against Lawrence and then the game against Allentown was just fun,” said Rodriguez, referring to 1-0 overtime loss in the quarters to the top-seeded Redbirds.

“We played them of 97 and half minutes to a shutout and that lifted us. That made us believe in ourselves and understanding that we can play and we can compete with some of the best teams around here.”

The squad’s group of seniors, led by Shannon Romaine, Camille Franklin, and Kathryn DeMilt, helped PHS remain competitive to the end.

“Shannon is our center mid; she is a great leader and gives a 100 percent effort all of the time,” said Rodriguez, whose senior class also included Julia Thomson and Hannah Colaizzo,

“The girls play for her because she does motivate them in that sense. Camille is a forward for us and is a hustle player. She is quick and makes things happen. Kat has been a good stopper for us the whole season. She is the kid we go to in a mark up situation.”

In the view of Rodriguez, the team has very good prospects going forward.

“We are young, we are coming back with 15 of our 20 players,” said Rodriguez.

“We have got a really great foundation moving into next year. We had a lot of hope for this year and I think we grew and started to tap into the potential.”

Rougas, for her part, believes that PHS can grow into something special.

“We need to just work on a little possession and connecting passes,” said Rougas. “Our heart is there. If we just keep on working for next year, I think we are going to be an amazing team.”