FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School girls soccer player Adriana Salzano, left, controls the ball during a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star and Monmouth commit Salzano had a goal and an assist as fifth-seeded PDS topped 12th-seeded Donovan Catholic 4-1 in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) South Jersey Non-Public A. tournament. The Panthers, who improved to 14-3-1 with the win, were scheduled to host 13th-seeded Mount St. Mary in the quarterfinals on Oct. 31, with the winner advancing to the semifinals on the 2nd. november. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Adriana Salzano, her stellar career on the Princeton Day School girls soccer team reached the point of life or death last Friday as the team began play in the Non-Public A South Jersey Tournament .
While PDS lost 1-0 to Steinert in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County tournament and was edged by Blair Academy in a shootout in the quarterfinals of the state prep tournament, the middle of Senior star fielder Salzano was in his final competition as a Panther when the team hosted Donovan Catholic last Friday to open play in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public A Tournament.
“It’s knockout, win or go home; we knew we had to come out here and kill the game immediately,” Salzano said. “That was our main goal, to come out with fire and intensity and achieve it.”
The Panthers misfired early on as they generated numerous opportunities but failed to find the back of the net.
“That’s something we’ve been working on all season: finishing,” Salzano said. “We had a lot of chances and we didn’t capitalize.”
With 8:07 left in the first half, sophomore Juliana Hartman scored to break the ice for PDS.
“It really relaxed us, we were a little frantic before,” Salzano said.
In the final minute of the half, Salzano doubled the Panthers’ lead by pushing a ball past Donovan’s Catholic goalkeeper after it crossed the box.
“Sometimes it’s not the prettiest goal but putting it in the back of the net is all that matters,” Salzano said.
In the second half, PDS put two more in the back of the net as a rookie
Ava Katz scored twice to help the Panthers earn a 4-1 victory, improving their record to 14-3-1. PDS was scheduled to host 13th-seeded Mount St. Mary in the quarterfinals on October 31, with the winner advancing to the semifinals on November 2.
After the Griffins scored a goal early in the second half to make it 2-1, Salzano set up Katz’s first goal, awarding a free kick to the freshman star.
“We looked at each other and said we need to come out and address this,” Salzano said. “It’s something we’ve been good at all season long. I just prepared the ball. I saw the gap and it was like you know what, I’m going to put this right in front of her. I wanted her to put her foot on it and put the ball in the net and that’s exactly what happened.
Katz’s play was a big plus this fall as she tallied five goals and a team-high 14 assists.
“She’s been really amazing for us, she’s definitely been an impact player,” said Salzano, who has a team-high 13 goals and four assists. “I love working with her in the field.”
Although winning the tournament boosted the Panthers’ confidence after their tough playoff losses, Salzano knew the victory guaranteed nothing for the future.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” Salzano said. “We can’t come back here and think everything will be fine from now on. We must come back even stronger on Tuesday.
According to Salzano, PDS can produce a special run in the non-public competition.
“I really think we can, we have so much talent individually and then collectively,” Salzano said. “When we get here, it’s like all the pieces of the puzzle come together, so I really think we could win the title.”
PDS head coach Chris Pettit sees Salzano as a key piece of that puzzle.
“She was very good; she was typical Dre, playing wherever we needed her to,” Pettit said. “Jules has been injured and Dre has been playing a little defensive the last few weeks. Today was her first game back in her more natural position of attacking midfielder, which is good because she ties together a lot of the play and brings so much to the table. She can hold the piece and connect with AK (Katz) up top. She can bring in wide players.
Katz was also very good. “What she did was incredible; we had high hopes going into the year and I thought she could do it, but you never know when you get to high school,” Pettit said. “As the year went on, she gained confidence, she became more successful. She has 14 assists and has started adding goals lately. She was a focal point of our offense, which really helped us. She really went under the radar because a lot of people focus on Abby (Weed) or Dre. The fact that she came and did this and did it so well was extremely positive.
The Panthers defense has also been positive this fall. “We were very good defensively,” Pettit said. “We had nine or ten clean sheets.”
With PDS boasting a balanced offense to go along with a stingy defense, Pettit believes the Panthers can win a title in their final tournament of the season.
“We didn’t concede a lot of goals and we created a lot of chances,” Pettit said. “It comes down to the first half, where against the top teams you won’t get 10 chances. We need to be more clinical and I think if we can do that we can really have a good run. I think all the games will be close because we have a good defensive record. We are well established and everyone knows their role. This group deserves it, they have the talent. It’s just about being able to convert some of those chances. The odds drop to six or seven players, so we only need one or two to be confident. It’s good that AK scored a few goals today, Dre scored another one. So I hope that confidence comes.
Salzano is confident she can make her final days in the PDS uniform memorable.
“It occurred to me, this could be my last game, the next one could be,” said Salzano, who will attend Monmouth University next fall and play for its football program feminine. “I have to come here and do everything I can so that it’s not my last game. To get this title, that’s what I’m working for right now. I want to go out in style. We’re not done yet, we still have things to sort out.