October 13, 2021

Sparked by Junior Star Romano’s Finishing Touch, PDS Girls’ Soccer Primed for Postseason Success

GOAL-ORIENTED: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Grace Romano goes after the ball in a 2020 game. Last Wednesday, junior striker Romano tallied two goals to help PDS defeat Pingry 3-1. A day later, Romano chipped in a goal to help the Panthers defeat Gill St. Bernard’s 3-1 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. PDS, now 7-2-2, plays at Newark Academy on October 16 and then hosts Hopewell Valley on October 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Grace Romano proved to be in the right place at the right time for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team as it hosted the Pingry School last Wednesday.

Less than 30 seconds into the contest, junior striker Romano converted a miscue by the Pingry goalie into a goal, swooping in on a bobble and slotting it into the back of the net.

Then with PDS clinging to a 2-1 lead in the waning minutes of the second half, Romano raced into the box and volleyed a ball over the head of the keeper to seal the deal as the Panthers prevailed 3-1.

“I think that really got our momentum started,” said Romano

“I thought she had it and then I turn around and see it rolling and I was, I have got to get to that.”

While the Panthers built a 2-0 lead at halftime as Abby Weed also found the back of the net, PDS wasn’t quite in synch.

“I think halftime really brought us back together,” said Romano.

“We were in the middle of transitioning into a new formation in the second half, a five wide. They were playing a formation we hadn’t seen before. Trying to get through the back line was a little difficult, especially for me. I liked it when I got moved out wide because I just got to use those straight runs.”

Pingry scored 10 minutes into the second half to make it a 2-1 game, putting the Panthers on their heels. Making a run from the wide five formation, Romano scored in the waning minutes of the game to seal the deal.

“That was fun; I saw Adriana [Salzano] and I saw that opening and I just went,” said Romano.

“I saw the goalie and I thought this has to get over her. There was a girl behind me and this needs to get off now.”

The Panthers have been having fun as they have adjusted to new head coach Chris Pettit.

“Everyone came in with a good mindset,” said Romano. “I was a little worried at first, some people don’t respond well to a new coach but everyone was on the same page. For the Preps and MCTs, it is the same journey. It is a different style but we really like it. He plays to everyone’s strengths really well.”

Having emerged as a key finisher for the Panthers in her junior campaign, Romano is looking to be a strong leader on the squad.

“As an upperclassman, it is a different role,” said Romano, who tallied a goal to help the Panthers defeat Gill St. Bernard’s 3-1 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament last Thursday and improve to 7-2-2.

“I feel I have more of a voice. It is just really fun to be in the position to see the underclassmen succeed, thinking like that used to be me.”

In finding her voice, Romano has been influenced by her older sister, Jules ’21, a star midfielder for the Panthers

“It was a little hard at first my freshman year,” said Romano.

“I was just so nervous and she was, ‘Grace what are you doing’ and then we just started getting really close. We are best friends now and I felt like I was supported on the team.”

PDS head coach Chris Pettit acknowledged that it was hard to break down the Pingry defense.

“It was an interesting battle of formations, their formation was a not good one for ours,” said Pettit.

“It was going forward but causing us problems defensively. We spoke at halftime about trying to make the adjustment, getting our wide players to tuck in a little bit more so we can match up in the middle.”

Pingry did cause problems for the Panthers in the second half when they cut the PDS lead to 2-1.

“We talked at halftime about 2-nil being a dangerous lead,” said Pettit.

“We were really panicking for 10 minutes after they scored. We were at sixes and sevens, we couldn’t really figure out where they were or anything like that.”

Putting five players in the midfield, the Panthers figured things out down the stretch.

“We changed formation midway through the second half, we actually went to five in the midfield to basically outnumber them in the midfield because I felt like we were a better possession team,” said Pettit.

“If we put more people in the middle we could out possess them and then really hit them on the counter attack. I think the last 20 minutes that played out with three central midfielders and a wide right and a wide left and from there because they packed the center of the midfield. Grace and Abby [Weed], in particular, were having a field day.”

Pettit liked Romano’s attacking move that led to the final goal of the contest.

“What was most pleasing about Grace was we brought her out of the forward position and said this is what we need you to do in those wide areas because that is where they are leaving the space,” said Pettit.

“Before that she didn’t look to do that, she was looking to find Adriana through the middle. On the next one, she made that adjustment, this is the moment we needed. The speed was frightening and then the finish was top drawer.”

Having gone 5-0-1 since a 4-3 loss to Lawrenceville on September 22, PDS is rounding into top form.

“I am very happy with the progress we are making,” said Pettit, whose team plays at Newark Academy on October 16 and then hosts Hopewell Valley on October 18.

“The big positive I take away from today, not even counting the result, is the fact that we could tactically change it on the fly to counter what other teams are doing. We are going to come into moments in games where we are going to need to do that. We can’t be a one-trick pony. For us to be able to do that, that was the overwhelming success from today.”

Romano believes the Panthers are primed for success in postseason play.

“We had a team meeting a few weeks ago and I think the chemistry is finally coming together pretty well,” said Romano.

“The intensity level is coming up; people are starting to understand the reputation of the program. The love for wanting to continue that reputation is getting passed on because we have a lot of new players. It took a little bit for everybody to buy in.”