November 3, 2021

With Christopher Setting Up Game-Winning Tally, PHS Field Hockey Edges Scotch Plains in Sectional

PASSING LANE: Princeton High field hockey player Hannah Christopher sends the ball upfield last Thursday as fifth-seeded PHS hosted 12th-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the first round of the North Jersey Group 4 sectional. Junior forward Christopher picked up an assist on the game-winning goal by Mia Ramirez as the Tigers prevailed 3-2. PHS, who improved to 15-1 with the victory, was slated to play at fourth-seeded Montclair in the sectional quarterfinals on November 2 with the victor advancing to the semis on November 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton High field hockey team locked in a 2-2 tie with Scotch Plains-Fanwood last Thursday afternoon in the first round of the North Jersey Group 4 sectional, Hannah Christopher saw an opening.

“I called for a cross, it is really important to communicate, it is something we did really well at the end,” said PHS junior forward Christopher.

“I got it across and to have Mia [Ramirez] finish that was really awesome. Mia had a great tip, it was perfect timing.”

The goal by Ramirez on the feed from Christopher proved to be the difference as fifth-seeded PHS prevailed 3-2 over the 12th-seeded Raiders, improving to 15-1 and advancing to the sectional quarters where they are slated to play at fourth-seeded Montclair on November 2.

“I think we really picked it up at the end,” said Christopher. “We really came together at the end.”

In the early stages of the contest, PHS struggled to get through the Scotch Plains back line.

“Their defense was definitely a challenge, they had a talented defensive line and their goalie (Emilia Saccento) was fantastic,” said Christopher.

“It was really impressive that she was able to stop some of Liv’s (Olivia Weir) balls.”

PHS got on the board with 3:50 left in the second quarter on a goal by sophomore Delaney Keegan, assisted by senior star Weir. After the Raiders responded with a goal late in the first half to make it a 1-1 contest, Keegan found the back of the cage early in the third quarter, set up once again by Weir. Minutes later, Scotch Plains scored to knot the game at 2-2.

In Christopher’s view, the ability of PHS to pick up its play down the stretch in earning the victory was a key step forward.

“We have played a lot of games this year that ended up 8-0, and I think this game provided a challenge that really helped us,” said Christopher.

“It really encouraged us to communicate more and to be more of a unit on the field. It was really important for us to come into this game knowing that we don’t know what to expect and play as hard as we could and be aggressive to the ball. I think it was a change for us and I think we really performed.”

Christopher has been performing better and better this fall as the season has unfolded.

“I had my first goal this year,” said Christopher. “I got pulled up for states my freshman year. I have been on varsity for a few years now; I really feel like I am contributing, which is really nice.”

In becoming a bigger contributor, Christopher has been making the most out of training sessions.

“It helps having those drills in practice for tipping, just being aware of where the ball is going to be and being able to see that before and timing our cuts perfectly,” added Christopher.

Playing with Rutgers-bound Weir has also helped Christopher sharpen her skills.

“She is really great at communicating with us,” said Christopher of Weir.

“You want to play at her level, you want to be able to be there for her passes and you don’t what to let your team down. Playing on her level has really helped me as a player, because she is really insane.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson was pleased with how her squad raised the level of its play in crunch time against Scotch Plains.

“That is what I am proud of, the way they picked that up in the fourth quarter because that is something we traditionally have an issue with,” said Serverson.

“I just said to them, ‘the thing I am most proud of, even more than that we won the game, is that you picked up the intensity and didn’t back down.’ Once they started playing like a unit, moving as a unit, and pressuring that ball, things work out.”

It took a while for PHS to work through the Scotch Plains defense.

“Their goalie did a great job today, they were tough to break down and we needed to get in front of the goalie and get a stick in front of her and a stick in front of the defenders,” said Serverson.

“Once we started doing that, that is when we got the opportunities to get the corners and the goals.”

Serverson was not surprised to see the Weir/Keegan combination generate scoring opportunities.

“They play well together; Delaney keeps getting better and better,” said Serverson.

“She is really coming out of her shell and it is awesome to watch. She is amazing defensively, she is amazing distributing the ball and she is amazing putting the ball into the goal. You can’t ask for a lot more.”

Getting more production from Christopher has been a plus for the Tigers.

“Hannah went in and provided a nice spark for us offensively off the sideline,” said Serverson.

“She has been great, she gets in the right spot at the right time and it worked out.”

Serverson was hopeful that seeing things work out against the Raiders would help PHS in the clash against Montclair, which will see the victor advance to the sectional semis on November 5.

“It is a confidence builder, especially since we don’t know who we are playing, we have no idea what to expect,” said Serverson.

“I think that helped settle our nerves a little bit. I am sure the next round is going to be much tougher, we can’t assume anything. You have got to play everyone like it is the championship game.”

Christopher, for her part, is confident that the Tigers will play hard to the end.

“I think the next round is going to be really tough for us,” said Christopher.

“I really think we have a shot, we need to come out aggressive and be the first to every ball. I hope that it will go well for us.”