October 13, 2021

PHS Field Hockey Tops Lawrence in Clash of Powers As Rebak Helps Spearhead Superb Defensive Effort

AMAZING GRACE: Princeton High field hockey player Grace Rebak, left, controls the ball last Friday against Lawrence High. Senior star defender Rebak helped spearhead the back line as PHS edged Lawrence 3-2 in showdown of powerhouses. The Tigers, who improved to 11-0 with the win, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament. PHS is seeded second in the MCT and hosts No. 15 Hamilton West in an opening round contest on October 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In 2020, the Princeton High field hockey team brought an undefeated record into its clash with Lawrence High and came away with a stinging 7-1 defeat.

Last Friday in the rematch of powerhouses, PHS found itself in a similar position, coming into the matchup at 10-0 and having not allowed a goal all fall as it girded for the showdown with 11-1 Lawrence.

This time, though, PHS was determined to produce a different result.

“We were coming out very hungry from last year; we just wanted redemption, we talked about last year’s game all of the time,” said PHS star senior defender and co-captain Grace Rebak.

“We were just ready for this, we were ready for the competition in defense. I wanted to feel the pressure, I wanted to go up against a really good offense so I was super excited going into it. I think our entire squad was really excited going into it.”

In competing with Lawrence, Rebak knew that PHS had to contain Cardinal superstar and Princeton University-bound Talia Schenck, who came into the game with 72 goals on the season.

“I play club with her at Princeton Field Hockey Club, I have been playing there a very long time and four years of high school,” said Rebak, who is headed to Williams College where she plans to play both field hockey and lacrosse.

“She has amazing stick skills. I really respect her. She is an insane player and she is very quick with her stick. We always wanted to have at least one person always stay on her and stay marked on her in the midfield to slow her down. I would step up and pressure her out. I obviously knew that she was going to get a few shots off.”

After holding Lawrence scoreless for three periods and  building a 3-0 lead on a goal by Olivia Weir and two tallies by Erin Kiesewetter, things got dicey for PHS. Schenck tallied two goals in the fourth but the Tigers tightened up on defense, holding off the Cardinals to prevail 3-2.

“We had a lot of momentum but once they scored, then they scored the other one,” said Rebak.

“I think we were ready to shut them down. We were just so motivated in the beginning, getting the first goal. We wanted to win and we knew we were going to win.”

With PHS starting play in the Mercer County Tournament this week where it is seeded second in the MCT and is hosting No. 15 Hamilton West in an opening round contest on October 13, passing the test against Lawrence is a huge boost.

“We are going into the tournament 11-0 so that is a very good feeling,” said Rebak, who raced to hug goalie Frankie deFaria after the final horn.

“Although we are now scored upon, I feel good about it. I feel a little bit relieved now that the pressure is off.”

Rebak feels very good about the way the Tiger defensive unit has come together this fall.

“We are really strong this year because we are all seniors, we have a senior goalie and three senior backs,” said Rebak who is joined on the back line by classmates Aleena Inayat and Stella Matsukawa.

“Our ability to play with each other is just fantastic this year. We really have a connection and we are able to work with each other. We know where each other are on the field.”

Being in the middle of the action along the back line is a fantastic feeling for Rebak.

“I am center back so I see the entire field and along with Frankie who sees the entire field from the goal,” said Rebak.

“We communicate a lot with each other, telling people where to go, telling people who to mark and just telling people where to be on the field. I love being the last person back because I like to feel that pressure.”

Over the years, Rebak has developed a deep connection with goalie DeFaria, who made nine saves in the win over Lawrence.

“I trust her so much; I have been playing with her for two years now so I really trust her to have my back,” said Rebak.

“We haven’t seen much action on defense, especially her … she loved the action today. Before every defensive corner, it was let’s go, we have got to get this one out. We just pump each other up to get the clear out. We did a great job. We got the win and we were so excited.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson was excited to see her squad overcome Lawrence.

“I think that was the first time we have seen a full team defense, every single player was down there,” said Serverson.

“They were determined to win this game. It is the one thing they wanted all season long. I am so happy for them that they did it.”

Serverson was very happy about the effort she got from Rebak against the Cardinals.

“Grace really stepped up, she had a fantastic game,” said Serverson.

“She had so many excellent tackles on Talia. She did so well, she has never done that well. She was spot on the whole time. She is always cool, calm and collected.”

Goalie deFaria was cool under fire against high-powered Lawrence.

“She passed the AP field hockey test on this field, it was phenomenal.” said Serverson.

“She had a great game even though two goals went in, that is how amazing she was. She was so happy, she was crying out of joy at the end of it. She did an amazing job, the whole defense did an amazing job. They slipped two in because they were great shots. You can’t take that away from Talia, she is a wonderful player. I told the team she is going to score at least one goal against us today but just make sure that we score more.”

Seeing Kiesewetter get two goals was a big plus. “Erin has been doing a great job for us at forward,” said Serverson.

“She knows right where to be and how to find the back of the net for us. She has been spot on.”

Serverson believes that PHS can build on the win over Lawrence heading into postseason as it heads into the MCT.

“I think we knew we could do it all season long; it was all of that anticipation building up to it, it was kind of nerve-wracking,” said Serverson.

“Once they got out there and started doing their thing, everyone was fine. We just need to keep on the path that we are on, focusing in practice and making sure we fix the little things. Lawrence pointed out a few issues that we have to work on. That is the kind of test that we needed before the tournament.”

Rebak, for her part, is confident that PHS has what it takes to pass the postseason tests ahead with flying colors.

“We have players all over the field who are very experienced,” said Rebak.

“We always have Olivia on the offense and we have a great defense and then in the midfield we have a tight group. We have been making the most out of it, some of us have been playing with each other for four years. We practiced during the offseason. We just knew that we were going to come out with a strong season with this squad. We are very excited.”