The Spirit Eagles U19 field hockey team entered the 2012 Disney Field Hockey Showcase, one of the primary college showcase tournaments in the country, with great expectations, and proved those to be correct.
The tournament is a national draw with well over 100 teams of young athletes looking to be recruited by NCAA coaches. Both and The Pingry School were well represented in this Spirit Eagles team that emerged undefeated in eight games, winning the gold medal.
The team was led by forward Nikki Witte, of Pingry; forward Brigid Bruno, of Pingry; forward Katie Ruesterholz; Pingry; midfielder Rachel Yaney, Bridgewater-Raritan; midfielder Catherine Caro, of Bridgewater-Raritan; defender Nicole Arata, of Pingry; defender Dale Paustian, of Bridgewater-Raritan; and goaltender Kristen Piersanti, of Bridgewater-Raritan.
These girls who play against each other in hotly contested battles at least three times a season pulled together as a team and dominated the competition from around the continent.
“The team just played as a unit, with one goal in mind, to do whatever it takes to win,” Arata said upon leaving the confetti-strewn podium with a gold medal around her neck at the competition.
The team held its first seven opponents scoreless, often dominating possession.
In the championship game, Bridgewater standout Piersanti proved to everyone why she was selected to the US National U21 Indoor Team.
After two comebacks goals by the Spirit Eagles, the game ended in a tie 2-2. The game had to be decided by strokes, which are like penalty kicks in Soccer, with a best of five shoot-out, one on one with the goalie. Two of the Spirit Eagles' four shooters managed to find the back of the net, while Piersanti shut down all four of the shooters that faced her.
The fifth shooters weren’t necessary as the whole Spirit Eagles team rushed to Kristen in their joyous victory celebration.
—David Arata, Bridgewater