Featuring a Crew of Battle-Tested Veterans, PHS Field Hockey Looking Like a Powerhouse
WEIR ON A TEAR: Princeton High field hockey player Olivia Weir, right, brings the ball up the field in a game last year. Senior star Weir, who has committed to attend Rutgers University and play for its field hockey program, has emerged as the go-to finisher for PHS. The Tigers begin their 2021 season by playing at Allentown on September 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
The players on the Princeton High field hockey team started laying the groundwork for a big 2021 season well before they hit the field for preseason practices in mid-August.
“We have been playing all summer, we really never stopped so this is just another part of our season,” said PHS head coach Heather Serverson, noting that her players have played pickup at school two days a week and have also played pickup at Centercourt Sports in Lawrence and competed for various club programs.
“They are such a close-knit group and we only graduated three people. It is kind of just like getting the band back together. One of the biggest plusses about this team is that they are all extremely familiar with playing with one another.”
There will be plenty of familiar faces on the field for the Tigers as the squad boasts a stellar senior group.
“We have seven seniors and they have been doing a great job, trying to set the standards in practices and at games,” said Serverson, whose team went 8-2 last year and begins its 2021 season by playing at Allentown on September 9.
“They are great leaders in general, they really make an effort to reach out to the younger girls. They make sure that everyone feels included and welcome. It is great environment.”
The forward line features a great player in senior Olivia Weir, who has committed to attend Rutgers University and play for its field hockey program.
“Olivia is looking good, she is healthy, she is happy,” said Serverson. “She is a creative player too. She is a good team player and that is why she helps make us look good as well as herself. She would rather someone else would have the goal almost than herself.”
Serverson has other options at forward in addition to Weir.
“Erin Cooke is a senior and she is in the mix,” added Serverson.
“Sophomore Erin Liggio is a promising player who could produce some goals for us.”
The Tiger midfield is a work in progress with sophomore Delaney Keegan in the mix along with senior Aleena Inayat and junior Gianna DiGioacchino.
“Delaney is playing high mid for us right now,” said Serverson. “She was on varsity last year but she never got to play because she was injured. The midfield on both sides is up in the air. I am looking at Aleena or Gianna. They have both been playing well there down the center for us. We are just trying to figure out how we best fit together there.”
Senior star Grace Rebak, who has verbally committed to attend Williams College and compete for its field hockey program, will spearhead the back line
“Now that the other players are more seasoned, Grace feels more comfortable with going forward,” said Serverson, whose defensive unit will also include senior Stella Matsukawa along with either Inayat or DiGioacchino.
“She is awesome, I am really going to miss her. I think her decision-making and timing is spot on. She is just so calm and steady in making decisions at just the right moment. Her communication in the back keeps everyone else nice and steady and calm. It is a senior and junior defensive backfield.”
Battle-tested senior Frankie deFaria gives PHS a steady presence at goalie.
“Frankie is looking good; she is even better with the aerial shots now, we have been working on that,” said Serverson.
“She is also a big communicator back there for us. Between her and Grace, they keep everybody calm and playing well. It is amazing.”
In Serverson’s view, PHS has the potential to produce an amazing season this fall if it takes care of business on and off the field.
“I think that the adjustment of going back to school is probably going to be a key to our success,” said Serverson.
“It is all in-person this year; they are not used to getting up that early, so it is just that readjustment to getting back to normal. Other than that, this might be one of the most skilled teams I have ever coached at PHS. If we continue on the trajectory that I think we should be on, we should be doing some good things this season.”