SKIP AHEAD: Princeton High women’s soccer player Holly Howes controls the ball last Thursday against Trenton High in the season opener. Junior striker Howes had a goal and two assists to help PHS win 7-0. Two days later, Howes added a goal as the Tigers outscored WW/P-North 2-0. In upcoming action, PHS play Ewing on September 15, host Hamilton West on September 17 and play Hightstown on September 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
It’s a tough act to follow, but Holly Howes and her teammates on the Princeton High women’s soccer team are up to the challenge.
With PHS coming off a historic slump that saw them go 21-3 and advance to the Group 3 state championship game for the first time in program history, the 2022 squad could feel pressure to match such feats.
Instead, the Tigers are using last year’s success as a model.
“The word of the season is ‘repeat’,” said PHS junior forward Howes. “We are doing everything to repeat the season we had last year with our communication, our style of play.”
Howes, for her part, is looking to follow in the footsteps of Sophia Lis, who scored 38 goals for the Tigers last fall and is now starting for the Lehigh University women’s soccer team.
“My biggest influence was Sophia, she always took risks,” said Howes, who had 14 goals and 10 assists last season. “She always worked the hardest on the pitch, she always found a free space. Thanks to her, I became more confident in my game to take risks, to take hits.
Last Thursday, Howes took advantage of his shots, scoring a goal and adding two assists as PHS edged Trenton High 7-0 in the first game of the season for both teams.
“It’s really good to start the season with a goal,” Howes said. “I shot it first, then someone else took the rebound. She saved it again and then I filmed it.
With a number of new faces in the PHS starting lineup, Howes knows she has to play a key role up top.
“We’re playing a 4-4-2 attack which means I’m playing forward with someone else,” said Howes, who added a goal as PHS beat WW/P-North 2-0 on Saturday to make it 2-0. “We practiced a lot with balls and moved to one space so everyone was always moving and someone was always open.”
In the win over Trenton, the ball was moving well as second Marina Zaldarriaga scored two goals with senior Rowan Gilmore, junior Brielle Moran, senior Lucia Salvato and junior Alysse Kiesewetter scoring one each.
“We always try to get everyone involved,” Howes said. “We just train to play consistently.”
Following in the footsteps of last year’s team, PHS has developed a chemistry that it brings to games.
“We’re all friends, we bond a lot as a team,” Howes said. “My freshman year was COVID, so we didn’t have a lot of team bonding. Last year we did a lot, so we want to continue with our season. We had a team slumber party and a pasta dinner. As we are all such good friends, playing together on the pitch comes naturally.
PHS head coach Dave Kosa believes the team’s success last year has left a legacy.
“It’s a different group, a different season, but our chemistry and togetherness is a strength,” Kosa said. “Last year’s experience helped the girls who were in the program. Newcomers have also had success. They know they have to work hard to get there. We’re going to have to work harder this year, especially with the new girls. Everyone knows the expectations and they are working on it.
In the win over Trenton, the Tigers lived up to expectations.
“We were excited, we just wanted to get off to a good start,” Kosa said. “It looks like we did. I saw a lot of good things there. We just want to keep improving with every game.
Kosa has seen good things from Howes. “Holly brings goalscoring potential,” Kosa said. “She has very good movement with the ball. She achieved her goal with this. We want her to keep showing the ball and really flashing on the ball so we can give her more touches.
The newcomers to the team also showed their talent. “Freshmen are stepping up; Kasey Howes is doing a great job, Romy Johnson is doing a great job on defense and our first-year goaltender Olivia DeLuca has been playing well,” Kosa said.
“Marina really, really worked hard, we told him that being an outside midfielder you have to make sure you get to the far post. We did a great job crossing the ball today and we gained some depth about it. She was in the right place.”
Senior captains Salvato and Gilmore, along with junior captain Kiesewetter, helped set a positive tone for the team.
“We have very good solid leadership from the seniors,” Kosa said.
“The captains did a great job. It really is a great vibe to be around. He took back; we just took over what we left last year.
As PHS enters a busy week as they play Ewing on September 15, host Hamilton West on September 17 and play Hightstown on September 20, Kosa are looking for their players to keep that winning mood going.
“It’s just playing good soccer every day and every game,” Kosa said. “We will continue to work harder.”
Howes, for her part, is confident the Tigers will continue their good work.
“We have tough games so we’re going to do our best and play consistently as a team,” Howes said. “We’re going to have to keep positive attitudes and communication.”