Boosted by Keegan’s superb all-around play, PHS field hockey looks terrific at 4-0

GOOD RUN: Princeton High field hockey player Delaney Keegan, right, scores a player in a game last season. Last Wednesday, junior midfielder Keegan had a goal and two assists to help PHS beat Allentown 4-0. The Tigers, who improved to 4-0 with a 6-0 win over Ewing last Monday, play WW/P-South on Sept. 21, host Robbinsville on Sept. 23 and play Steinert on Sept. 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Delaney Keegan was a little frustrated as the Princeton High field hockey team dominated early possession against Allentown last Wednesday, but had nothing to show for it.

“At the start, everyone was playing a little off,” said junior star Keegan. “At the start of the game, we just try to get in the mood.”

Keegan helped break the ice, setting up Hannah Christopher as she scored with 1:18 left in the first quarter to give PHS a 1-0 lead.

“Once we got in there, I think it was using each other, passing and communicating effectively, not even shouting,” Keegan said.

“It was just with cues and looking up, it really, really helped us.”

With the Tigers scoring a goal in each quarter and the defense holding first, PHS secured a 4-0 victory over the Redbirds.

“We practiced a lot on connecting with our forwards and more on connecting in layers,” said Keegan, who finished with a goal and two assists in the win.

“We are working on mixing the two layers with forwards, midfield and defence. We are also working on forward passes and switchovers. We’ve noticed that as we move him more across the goal there are open shots and less room to hit him in the goalie pads or whatever.

Keegan acknowledged Allentown pushed the Tigers, forcing them to fight harder in the circle.

“I think they were playing really, really good defense; they gave us a run to show us what aggression is and how we need to come back to them more,” Keegan said.

“It was just being stronger with the ball and being more efficient with the ball too.”

Showing some aggression, Keegan scored with 13:46 left in regulation time to cap the day’s score.

“It was really good,” Keegan said. “Once we read the sitter (Kylie Elefante), we started to realize that we shouldn’t go straight into her. She was really good.

As his role has evolved within the team, Keegan is looking to do a bit of everything for the Tigers.

“I’m ready to step in and help the team,” Keegan said. “I want to do whatever is best for the team, distribute. I want to be a team player and really help.

PHS head coach Heather Serverson credited Keegan with stepping up her efforts this fall.

“Not only is she great offensively, but she really helps us in midfield,” Serverson said of Keegan, who provided an assist last Monday as PHS beat Ewing 6-0 to move to 4-0.

“She often stops the ball coming back to our defense and then she does a great job distributing the ball. She’s great on both sides, she’s great all over the pitch.

While Serverson acknowledged that PHS was slow to get going against Allentown, she liked the way things went.

“It takes us about five to 10 minutes to start connecting with each other, but once we do, it’s like perfect,” Serverson said. “It’s beautiful to watch.”

Despite producing beautiful moments, PHS has room for growth.

“That’s our goal, just pepper the goalie and try not to let the goalie make saves,” Serverson said.

“We try to work on tips and put our stick in front. I think we did well today. We had a lot of post balls which I would like to see go into the goal. We will work on these things in practice.

The team’s work to diversify its offense paid off against the Redbirds as Erin Liggio and Kayla Christopher scored the other goals, giving PHS four different scorers on the day.

“We had a diverse group of scorers,” Serverson said. “I think it’s wonderful to have so many people who can contribute as much as possible. It’s amazing there, it’s a real team effort instead of just relying on one or two people.

The Tiger defense produced a superb effort to smother Allentown.

“They did a great job of communicating,” Serverson said. “We also have a lot of speed in defense this year, which has really helped us a lot both on the defensive side and on the attacking side. Sophia [Gono] in particular is really, really fast. She makes sure that the transition to attack has started a lot for us. She does a great job.

With PHS playing WW/P-South on September 21, hosting Robbinsville on September 23 and playing Steinert on September 27, Serverson is confident the Tigers can continue on the winning streak.

“How we connect is our big thing,” Serverson said.

“Once we can connect, we can do anything as long as we do it up and down the pitch as a unit. As soon as we start to really understand that part of the game, I think we’re going to be very hard to stop.

According to Keegan, PHS got it right.

“I’m really, really happy with how we’ve connected so far,” Keegan said,

“I think we recovered from that very quickly after losing a lot of our players last year from our starting line-up. We have new players coming in, which is really good. We realized that it is more efficient to pass and work as a team.

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