Back in Action After Being Sidelined Last Year by Injury, Henderson Emerging as Catalyst for PHS Girls’ Lacrosse
HAPPY RETURN: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Sarah Henderson celebrates after a goal in recent action. Junior attacker Henderson, who has returned to action this spring after being sidelined by a knee injury last season, has emerged as a key offensive weapon for the Tigers. Last Wednesday, Henderson tallied two goals and three assists to help PHS defeat Hopewell Valley 18-14. The Tigers, who lost 13-4 to Notre Dame last Thursday to move to 4-2, hosts Lawrence High on April 26, play at Lawrenceville School on April 28, and then host WW/P-North on May 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Sarah Henderson, getting on the field this year for the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team required some grit and persistence.
Injuring her right knee in August, 2021, Henderson was sidelined last spring as she underwent a grueling and painstaking rehab process.
Returning to action for the 2023 campaign, junior attacker Henderson has quickly established herself as a key offensive weapon for the Tigers.
Henderson couldn’t stop smiling as she reflected on finally being back in the fray for the Tigers.
“I just got back last August 2022; I had one fall season with my club team so this is my first school season back since my injury,” said Henderson, who suffered a torn ACL.
“I am so thrilled. This is definitely the favorite lacrosse I have ever played. I love being on this team and having coach Katie [Federico] as my coach. Some of my best friends are on this team, it is a great experience.”
Playing with a large brace on her right knee, Henderson is still working on getting up to speed.
“It was hard rehabbing, it was the same amount of difficulty getting back on the field,” said Henderson.
“The brace is constantly pinching me and I have to get used to that, getting back into it and getting back to running as much as you do in a game. I have decided not to play midfield because I think it is just to much for my leg. In the game on attack, I feel fine.”
Last Wednesday, Henderson helped spark the PHS attack, tallying two goals and three assists as PHS edged Hopewell Valley 18-14.
“It has been tough, feeling like I am in the right spot and remembering what I am supposed to be doing,” said Henderson.
“I am working to get that back. Today was good. I felt really good about attacking and my transitions, going from transition spacing to spacing around the 12.”
Coming off a tough 12-8 loss to Robbinsville on April 17, the Tigers played better in transition collectively against HoVal.
“I think we did a better job in spacing during this game,” said Henderson.
“Over the season, we are meshing better as a team. We have a lot of new players.”
Building a 14-8 lead midway through the second half, PHS faced a challenge down the stretch as they were a player down in the late stages of the contest due to accumulating more than four yellow cards.
“We weren’t ready to give up the lead that we had,” said Henderson.
“We were pumped up about the game and being down a player. It was what if we could score with a man down, we just wanted to keep doing that.”
Henderson helped PHS hold off the Bulldogs, feeding Phoebe Steiger for two key goals in the last six minutes of the contest.
“Phoebe and I have been working together a lot this season, we have a little mini-play between us for knowing when each other is open,” said Henderson.
“We alway look for each other when we have the ball. Whenever I have the ball, I am always looking for people but I know she will always be trying to get open. My first instinct as an attacker is to look for an assist, just as my sister (former PHS star and current Pomona-Pitzer standout Shoshi) did. I was looking to see who was open and I saw she was right behind a defender that slid up to the girl closer to me. I saw the opening and got it to her.”
The influence of her older sister Shoshi, who tallied 137 assists in her PHS career and had 90 assists in her freshman campaign last spring for Pomona, has impacted Henderson’s game.
“She has been such an inspiration with lacrosse with her poise on the field,” said Henderson.
“Watching her play, she was the least selfish player I have ever seen. She didn’t care about how many goals she had, she was all about the team getting goals. It didn’t matter who scored them. She has passed that on to me. She has helped coach me over the years. She lives all the way in California but I get to talk to her when I can. She is great, she always texts me before the games.”
In the view of PHS head coach Katie Federico, the younger Henderson is displaying similar traits.
“Sarah sees the field, her assists today were great,” said Federico of Henderson, who has tallied five goals and a team-high 12 assists this spring.
“I think she is still trying to get the feeling down of everything. I told her you are not going to be 100 percent when you come back but each day she is improving. I think last year watching a lot helped her learn the game even more. Her game IQ has really increased.”
Federico saw improvement in the PHS attack as it piled up 18 goals against HoVal.
“They are starting to click even more, they are starting to know where each other is going to be,” said Federico, who got six goals and three assists from junior star Riley Devlin in the win with freshman Quinn Gallagher scoring four goals and junior Steiger chipping in three.
“The whole team, in general is great. They talk with each other, they go over plays, we watch some film. They are helping each other. We did lose a lot of leadership last year with the seniors. I feel like they are starting to step up and help the underclassmen which has been really nice. They are a good group of girls.”
Devlin has been stepping up for PHS as a scorer and leader.
“Riley has really upped her game and I have seen a level of leadership come from her as well,” said Federico of Devlin, who has scored a team-high 22 goals.
“She knows what it was like when she was a freshman and having the upperclassmen help so she has been doing that. It has been really nice to see. She is really a self-reflective player and always thinking about what can we do differently as a team to try and improve.”
The play of freshman star Gallagher has given the team a lift as she has tallied 13 goals so far in her debut season.
“She is so tall and has a beautiful shot, she is a lefty,” said Federico.
“Like everybody, she is starting to learn and jell. We take it one day at a time.”
Looking ahead, Federico believes the Tigers could jell into something special.
“I am happy where we are, we have already improved from game one,” said Federico, whose team lost 13-4 to Notre Dame last Thursday to move to 4-2, and hosts Lawrence High on April 26, plays at Lawrenceville School on April 28, and then hosts WW/P-North on May 1.
“I think each game, we are going to get better. It is nice having the tough games earlier on, it prepares you for the postseason.”
Henderson, for her part, is developing a comfort level as the Tigers have progressed.
“I love playing with all of the new players; we have a great chemistry on the team,” said Henderson.
“We really know when to see each other and get open for those passes. It is becoming more intuitive, I am super excited for the rest of the season.”