March 13, 2024

Taking a More Serious Approach Down the Stretch, PHS Girls’ Hockey Advanced to Annis Cup Semis

TIP OF THE SPEIR: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Cassie Speir, right, chases down the puck in a game during the 2022-23 season. Junior star Speir scored 31 goals this winter to help PHS advance to the Annis Cup semis and go 3-11 (including 1-1 in two games against the Lawrenceville School JV). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the winter unfolded, Christian Herzog urged the players on his Princeton High girls’ hockey team to take a more business-like approach when they took the ice.

“We had some talks at the end of the season, like ladies we can always come out and laugh it up and dance to music in between periods at the games, I would like to make this more serious,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog. “I want us to lean towards a team that is more serious the whole game.”

Responding to their coach, the Tigers posted a 6-3 win over Newark East Side in the Annis Cup quarterfinals on February 7 in their next to last game of the season.

“It is always a highlight to get a win,” said Herzog, whose squad went on to fall 11-1 to Madison in the Annis Cup semis to finish the winter at 3-11 (including 1-1 in two games against the Lawrenceville School JV). “They tried harder later in the season, there was more effort at the early morning practices.”

Junior star Cassie Speir tried hard all season long, winning the team’s MVP award as she scored 31 goals.

“Cassie is a strong player, she is super motivated, and she is a great teammate,” said Herzog of Speir who played both defense and forward. “The sad part is that when she isn’t there, the girls go into it knowing this isn’t going to go well. Even if we are kind of outmatched when she is there, they don’t show that. They say this is going to be a tough game but we have Cassie.”

Things went very well for freshman Taylor Davidson in her debut campaign for the Tigers as she tallied 31 goals.

“Taylor is a good hockey player, she was willing to play defense so that we could keep her in the game,” said Herzog, noting that Davidson was selected as the team’s Rookie of the Year. “She made it clear that it is not her first position, but she wanted to do what is in the best interest of the team.”

Stepping up last year in the best interest of the team, Logan Hollingsworth shifted to goalie even though she had never played that demanding position before.

“She is like, ‘I don’t have any goalie experience but I will do it,’” said Herzog of senior Hollingsworth, who was chosen for the program’s Coaches Award this winter. “She had some good games this year. What I liked is when she would finally come out of the net. In the last two years, she hasn’t missed a game or a practice. That is dedication.”

Junior captain Maya Hagt has displayed dedication to the team, serving as a captain for the second straight season.

“Maya is like team mom with organization, she is always looking out for the best interests of the girls,” said Herzog of Hagt, who tallied nine points this winter on three goals and six assists. “She is realistic, she tries to encourage them. She is always trying to get more out of them.”

Another PHS player who encouraged her teammates was junior Sabrina Hull, who received the team’s “Head, Heart, and Hustle” award.

“She is Miss Positivity. She is louder than anyone on the bench, she is Cassie’s biggest supporter,” said Herzog. “All of the girls look up to her. On the ice, she is always giving 100 percent, playing the best that she can.”

Sophomore Jojo Vitaro also made a positive impact, getting the Captains Award.

“She plays defense,” said Herzog of Vitaro. “She is a very nice kid — good personality and everything.”

With nearly everyone returning as Hollingsworth and Theresa Douglas were the only seniors on the squad this season, the Tigers have a nice foundation in place going forward. Herzog pointed to sophomores Sophia Lee and Izzy Bloom as two young players who made a lot of progress this winter.”

“Sophia was playing a ton of shifts, I was working her second and fourth shifts, sometimes double-shifting,” said Herzog. “Izzy wants to work hard, she skates hard.”

Looking ahead, Herzog is hoping that the hard work the players put in this winter will yield dividends.

“I am not worried about numbers or anything like that for next year,” said Herzog.” “We are going to have a lot of seniors. I know the girls are looking forward to next year.”