September 30, 2020

Displaying Upbeat Mentality in Preseason, PHS Field Hockey Primed to Make Most of Fall

GRACEFUL MOVE: Princeton High field hockey player Grace Rebak controls the ball in a game last fall. Junior defender/midfielder and co-captain Rebak will help key the PHS defense. The Tigers open their 2020 season by playing at Hamilton West on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Heather Serverson is seeing a special spirit in the way her Princeton High field hockey team has dealt with practicing through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The girls have done a great job with it,” said PHS head coach Serverson, who guided the Tigers to a 14-4-1 record in 2019 as they advanced to the semifinals of both the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional.

“They keep coming earlier and earlier to practice because they are so excited to get there. They are saying it is the highlight of my day, I need to get outside. They just love it. I have never seen them so happy, nobody is complaining.”

Serverson is happy to have senior co-captain Shoshi Henderson leading the team’s forward line.

“Shoshi had been playing pretty well before her injury last year; she is one of our co-captains, so we are looking for her to show some leadership up front,” said Serverson, whose front line unit could also include junior Erin Kiesewetter, sophomore Erin Cooke, the Christopher twins, sophomores Hannah and Kayla, and senior Supansa Levine.

The return of junior Olivia Weir, who was sidelined last fall due to injury, along with the development of senior Hailey Hawes should spark the PHS midfield.

“Olivia is back, I am looking for some big contributions from her,” said Serverson, who will also be looking at junior Stella Matuskawa in the midfield.

“I am looking for Hailey to step up, I think that is where she is going to be a good contributor. Toward the end of the season last year, we got her in at mid for some of the games and she was able to give some good contributions there.”

The Tiger defense will be spearheaded by junior co-captain Grace Rebak, and junior Aleena Inayat.

“Grace is solid, she is either going to be in the middle of the defensive line or in the middle on the mid line,” said Serverson, whose back line unit will also include sophomore Gianna DiGioacchino.

“She is going to be a huge driving force for our defense. She is a such a solid, steady person, not just player. I have never seen the girl frazzled, I have never seen her angry. Aleena played a lot last year, I think she played every game, every second for us. She played the side back. She is playing more offensively this year. In my mind, Grace and Aleena might be the push in the backfield that we can really rely on. Aleena has that same temperament like Grace, she is very solid.”

Junior Frankie deFaria is turning heads at goalie as she succeeds graduated standout Grace Cooke.

“Somehow she looks as though she has been practicing  the entire quarantine and she hasn’t,” said Serverson.

“Her athleticism has improved over quarantine, I don’t know how she did it. She is making amazing saves in practice. She is a very, calm solid player as well and that is why Aleena, Grace, and Frankie blend so well together. They are all really calm, cool, and collected. They work well together, they coach each other. They are very receptive to the coaching from each other. It works on the field.”

While PHS has the talent to maintain its winning tradition, that is not the main focus this fall.

“We are just happy to play games,” said Serverson, whose team opens its 2020 season by playing at Hamilton West on October 1.

“We don’t even care if we win or lose, we are just so happy to play. Because we only have three seniors, we are looking to develop for this year and next year as well.”