October 23, 2019

Junior Star Beal Stepping Up in Crunch Time As PDS Girls’ Soccer Advances to MCT Semis

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Kelly Beal goes after the ball in a game last season. Last Saturday, junior star Beal scored a goal and had an assist to help second-seeded PDS edge seventh-seeded Princeton High 2-1 in a Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal contest. The Panthers, who improved to 13-2-1 with the win, were slated to face third-seeded Pennington in the MCT semis on October 22 with the victor advancing to the title game on October 24 at The College of New Jersey. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kelly Beal and her teammates on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team were girding for a battle as they hosted crosstown rival Princeton High in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals last Saturday.

“We watched a lot of game film and we saw how aggressive they were in the match before,” said PDS junior star midfielder Beal, referring to a spirited regular season clash between the rivals in early September which saw the Panthers prevail 3-1. “Going into this game, we knew what to expect. We had to out-finesse them.”

In the MCT rematch, seventh-seeded PHS outplayed second-seeded PDS in the early going, jumping off to a 1-0 lead on a brilliant volley from long distance by Kirin Kunukkasseril with 33:36 left in the half.

“It was a little bit of a surprise because we didn’t have a lot of energy coming out of the gate,” said Beal. “As the half went on, we started to develop our drive.”

Some four minutes later, Beal made a drive to the net, snaking through the PHS defense to find the back of the net and even the game at 1-1. “I was going for the best shot I could,” said Beal.

Heading into the second half, PDS was looking to generate shots.

“Our talk at halftime was that we needed to not start the second half the way we started the first half,” said Beal. “We came out really strong in the second half.”

It didn’t take long for PDS to cash in on its strong play as freshman Kirsten Ruf found the back of the net on a feed from Beal to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead which ended up being the final score as they advanced to the semis for the second straight year.

For PDS, making a return trip to MCT semis where it is slated to face third-seeded Pennington on October 22 with the victor advancing to the title game on October 24 at The College of New Jersey was the fruit of labor.

“It means a lot; we have worked really hard this
season, starting all the way back to preseason to where we are now,” said Beal.

“We have worked really hard in practices and we have worked really hard in games. I think that shows in the performances.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta realized that PHS was going to provide his team with a hard challenge.

“We knew coming into the game that it was going to be a physical game based on the first contest,” said Trombetta.

“That result means nothing in a game like this. It is two teams playing hard; it is tough to beat a good team twice. They came after us right off the bat and we settled down a little bit. I thought in the second half we had the better play and we created a number of opportunities.”

In controlling possession for much of the final 40 minutes, the Panthers fine-tuned their offensive approach.

“We just talked about trying to get the ball more wide and not up the middle as much,” added Trombetta.

“I think it worked for us. The opportunities were there in the second half. We had a couple of chances to try to put the game away but we couldn’t do it.”

Trombetta credited Beal with putting away her opportunities in recent play.

“Kelly is playing phenomenal, she has come on in the last eight or nine games,” said Trombetta, whose team is playing without Ariana Jones in the MCT as she is ineligible as a fifth year player.

“She is creative with the ball at her feet, she is fast and can face up when she gets up top. She is playing great.”

The PDS defensive unit also stepped up as it stifled PHS after yielding the early goal.

“I think Cailyn [Jones] had a great game. She had a tough matchup out there,” said Trombetta.

“She defended well and broke up a lot of their attacks. She is a tall player and was breaking stuff up in the air. Tulsi [Pari], Soph [Miranda] and Anna [Ellwood] played great back there. All four played really well.”

With his squad improving 13-2-1 in the wake of the win over PHS, Trombetta believes the Panthers will be tough to beat in both the MCT and the upcoming state Prep B tourney.

“We are looking forward to going to the final four again,” said Trombetta, whose team will also be starting play in the Prep B tournament next week as it looks to earn a sixth straight crown in that competition.

“One of our goals was to try to go one further this year than last year. You have got to get the the final four before you get there. What I think we are doing is peaking at the right time. Different players are stepping up every game. It was a total team performance today.”

Beal, for her part, is stepping up when it counts most. “In past years, I don’t think I have had the peak performances that I wanted to have,” said Beal. “This year, I am starting to show my full potential.”