September 21, 2022

Fueled by Senior Romano’s Production, Leadership, PDS Girls’ Soccer Defeats Mount St. Mary 4-2

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Grace Romano controls the ball in a 2020 game. Senior standout Romano tallied a goal and an assist to help PDS defeat Mount St. Mary 4-2 last Saturday. The Panthers, who defeated Lenape 2-1 last Monday to improve to 4-1, play at Jonathan Dayton on September 22 and at the Blair Academy on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Grace Romano has evolved into a senior leader for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team and is enjoying imparting her wisdom to her younger teammates.

“It has been really great, this is an awesome preparation for college,” said senior forward and co-captain Romano who has committed to attend Vassar College and play for its women’s soccer team.

“It is nice to sit back and give players a chance to see where they were when I was in their shoes. It is really building them up, it is great to be in a position to put them in success.”

Last Saturday, Romano set a good example for the squad’s young players, tallying a goal and an assist to help PDS rally from a 1-0 first half deficit against Mount St. Mary to pull away to a 4-2 victory.

“It was really just digging in and playing our game, just playing the whole game through,” said Romano, who scored a goal with 4:20 left in the first half on an assist from Adriana Salzano to knot the game at 1-1 heading into intermission.

“That is what we talked about at halftime. We just needed to be first to the ball, that was really an emphasis. I think you could see that in the second half. Every goal was a different player. We just really wanted to play for each other and I think we did that really well.”

Playing with junior teammate Salzano is a joy for Romano.

“Dre and I play together on club, I feel like we have that chemistry on the field,” said Romano, who competes for the PDA South club team along with Salzano.

“She and I love playing together. If I am rolling off that ball, she sees me. It is unspoken at this point.”

Early in the second half, Romano helped PDS forge ahead 2-1 as she fired a corner kick into the box and that was converted into a goal by freshman Juliana Hartman.

“We talk about setting up kids and trying to get them goal,” said Romano.

“I just wanted to get it in quick and it was either Kirsten [Ruf]  and Adriana put their hand up. I knew where I wanted it to go and it ended up going to Jules. We talked about that at practice, just capitalizing on that. It was having that hunger and wanting that ball, that is what really got it in.”

With Ruf and Sophia Zhou tallying the other goals in the win, the Panthers displayed their balance and unselfishness.

“We have a really solid team, I think that just speaks to our chemistry,” said Romano.

“We really trust each other. I think we have a really strong bond this year, we want to give it to other players. We want to give players a chance to score. It is not about the stats, it is just about the program.”

In Romano’s view, that trust has helped PDS get off to a good start this season.

“I am extremely happy, I think our one loss was a really well fought battle,” said Romano, referring to a 4-0 loss to Springside Chestnut Hill on September 10.

“The score wasn’t representative of how well we played and how well we fought. That was a really early test. This was mental test, that was a mental test. I think that will benefit us once we start getting into tournament and harder games.”

PDS head coach Chris Pettit liked how well his squad played in the opening stages of the second half as it dominated possession, generating several chances and going ahead 3-1.

“I thought the opening 15-20 minutes of the second half  was really, really good,” said Pettit.

“The pressing was relentless, the positional sense was really good. We had four or five  options off the ball, they couldn’t really hang with us. We scored a couple of good goals and we had a couple of other good chances that would have really killed the game off.”

To its credit, Mount St. Mary answered back with a goal midway through the second half to narrow the gap to 3-2. Minutes later, PDS responded as senior star Ruf blasted a long free kick over the goalie’s head into the back of the net.

“We got caught out with another long ball and then it was a game of OK, how is it going to go, are we going to grow back into it,” said Pettit.

“Luckily for us, Kirsten hit that rocket from distance which killed the game. It was a bit scrappy from that point on.”

Pettit credits Romano with raising her game this fall. “Grace is doing everything we hoped that she would; she is a senior leader setting the example,” said Pettit of Romano who chipped in an assist as PDS edged Lenape 2-1 last Monday to improve to 4-1.

“We moved her central and she scored a nice goal and got an assist. She has already gotten quite a few goals and assist. She has probably got more assists this season than she did the entirety of last season already. She has been doing that from the corners and also coming down the wing, getting her head up and trying to play a pass which makes a difference rather than just dumping it into the box.”

The squad’s young players have been making a difference as well

“We had minutes today from probably four or five freshmen,” noted Pettit.

“Jules scored her first goal, it was a nice goal. Her touches on the ball were very good. Ella [McLaren] alongside her has been doing very well. It is building and we have to keep that kind of momentum going.”

As PDS looks ahead to playing at Jonathan Dayton on September 22 and at the Blair Academy on September 24, Pettit wants his players to show more consistency.

“We are starting to show the potential, like in the opening 15 minutes of the second half,” said Pettit.

“We can look at that on video and compare it to the last 15 minutes of the first half and say here is what it is. We did that for 15 minutes and that is probably the best we have done it all season. Hopefully, we can do it for 20 or 25 minutes and get more and more people involved in it and good things happen. There are lots of positives to build on.”

Romano, for her part, believes that the Panthers can produce some very good soccer as the season unfolds.

“We have a really young team, I am really proud of how we play,” said Romano.

“It is definitely continuing to build that chemistry and getting that soccer IQ up, knowing where the passes have to go. I think we are unique in the fact that we do pass it around. I think in that final third, it is getting more players in the box and getting aggressive. We do focus a lot on making it look really pretty and sometimes coach says just hit it, you are not going to score if you don’t shoot.”