Senior Star Christopher Saving Her Best for Last, Helping 13-0 PHS Field Hockey Make MCT Semis
SHARED BELIEF: Princeton High field hockey players, from left, Erin Liggio, Hannah Christopher, Delaney Keegan, and Gianna DiGioacchino, celebrate after a goal last Saturday as top-seeded PHS edged eighth-seeded Stuart Country Day 3-2 in a Mercer Country Tournament quarterfinal contest. The Tigers, who improved to 13-0 with the win, were slated to play fifth-seeded Princeton Day School in the MCT semis on October 18 with the victor advancing to the final on October 20 at Lawrence High. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Hannah Christopher brought a lot of emotion to the field last Saturday morning for the Princeton High field hockey team as it hosted Stuart Country Day in a Mercer Country Tournament quarterfinal contest.
In addition to the game being the postseason debut for PHS, the program was holding its annual Senior Day celebration.
“It is definitely overwhelming,” said senior star and tri-captain Christopher. “I am so sad to leave, it is definitely bittersweet. I think it gave us motivation to play for each other.”
Underdog Stuart, the eighth-seed, showed some motivation of its own, battling top-seeded and undefeated PHS to a 0-0 stalemate at halftime.
“I think that we were lacking some aggression in the first half at halftime,” said Christopher. “We were talking about playing as a team, playing as a unit. We brought it together in the second half.”
Christopher helped PHS get it together over the last 30 minutes of the contest, picking up two assists as PHS pulled out a 3-2 win in improving to 13-0. The Tigers were slated to face fifth-seeded Princeton Day School in the MCT semis on October 18 with the victor advancing to the title game on October 20 at Lawrence High.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead midway through the third quarter on goals by junior Erin Liggio with Christopher assisting on the second tally. Stuart responded with a goal late in the quarter to cut the lead in half and cause some anxious moments for the Tigers.
“We were under a little bit of stress but during that timeout,” said Christopher, “we came together and we said, ‘take a deep breath, we have the skill to win this game.’”
Displaying her skill, Christopher assisted on a third goal by Liggio as PHS forged ahead 3-1 with 6:09 left in regulation.
Christopher has developed a rhythm with Liggio in the circle.
“I think me and Erin connect a lot,” said Christopher, who has 18 goals this season, second best on the team behind the 28 tallied by Liggio. “We are always on the same side. She is always in the right spot so when she calls for the ball, I trust her.”
In reflecting on her offensive production, Christopher attributes it to trusting herself more.
“I have played with a lot more confidence this season,” said Christopher. “That has helped me put up those goals, it is just showing up for my team.”
Serving as team captain along with her sister Kayla and Gianna DiGioacchino, Christopher has enjoyed taking a leadership role.
“I absolutely love being a captain, our team is so nice and we are all so close,” said Christopher. “It is really nice to have so many close friends you can rely on the field and off the field. Being captain in the situation is so heartwarming because everybody trusts each other. Everybody plays together.”
In Christopher’s view, playing together has been a key to the 13-0 start by the Tigers.
“Our coaching staff is really great, they teach us to rely on each other and I really respect that,” said Christopher. “We are a really tight-knit team so we are showing up for ourselves and we are also showing up for everyone else.”
PHS head coach Heather Serverson credited a scrappy Stuart team with showing a lot of heart in the MCT battle.
“Clearly Stuart bought their A-game today, they really wanted it badly,” said Serverson. “It looked like they wanted it more than we did in the first half of the game, and then we really turned it on.”
Breaking the ice with the two straight goals in the third quarter helped the Tigers turn the tide.
“We weren’t playing well, we weren’t playing our game,” said Serverson. “The issue was that we were trying to play as individuals as opposed to a team. Once we switched back to the way we normally play, things picked up.”
Serverson credits Christopher with helping to pick things up for PHS.
“Hannah has been doing a great job in the circle, she is super feisty,” said Serverson. “She is a great communicator, she is a great role model.”
Liggio has been doing a great job in the circle for PHS.
“Erin is in the right spot at the right time, she doesn’t stop until she gets a goal,” said Serverson. “She is awesome. She worked really hard in the offseason and it is showing on the field. She gets her stick on every ball in the circle.”
In order to close the deal in the MCT, the Tigers need to stick to some basic principles.
“We have to hang tough and play our game and stay poised for the full 60 minutes if we want to win,” said Serverson. “Everyone is going to play their best game against us. Based on the intensity level, anything is possible. We have every intention of winning, we have the ability to win. We have to line up all of the variables. We have to make sure that we are healthy and that we are poised.”
Surviving the challenge from Stuart should help PHS going forward.
“We literally got pushed to our limit today, I think that was good,” added Serverson. “That is going to help prepare us for what is to come.”
Christopher believes that the Tigers are prepared to come through with a county crown.
“It definitely could be our year,” said Christopher. “We need to play with more aggression, more confidence and just make sure that we are coming out really strong.”