Bergman can do it all for Triton

Triton's Paige Bergman. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Paige Bergman stood alone on the field minutes before a recent scrimmage, staring straight ahead at the net about 30 yards away.

Four soccer balls sat just in front of her. And with each, Bergman took similar aim.

She looked down. She set herself a few feet from the ball. And she fired.

Each shot had a slightly different controlled, tight bend.

Each was buried hard into the top of the net.

Bergman is one of the Northeast's most highly regarded college soccer prospects as a defender. She has been known as such since her freshman year.

But entering her senior season at Triton, she has yet to play the position in high school.

On its face, the logic doesn't hold up. But watching her take just a few practice shots is more than enough of an explanation.

"Physically, she's just so incredibly strong. How could we not want to use that on offense?" Triton coach Holly O'Donnell said. "She just has that presence on a soccer field. She can take control of a game."

Bergman has stood out as an offensive central midfielder for Triton. She recorded 19 goals and six assists last season, despite relentless defensive attention. She enters this year with 54 career goals.

And the truth is, she could play anywhere.

She's tall and strong and a natural leader. She is known for her advanced field awareness, her ability to communicate with teammates.

And yet through it all, she remains something of an unsung hero - without the media attention or the accolades of the stars on some of South Jersey's more heralded programs.

But Bergman pointed out that headlines have never really been much of a concern for her.

"I would rather our team be strong, to play the best soccer that we possibly can," said Bergman, a St. Joseph's recruit.

While Triton is an overall talented team, and an increasing number of Mustangs are playing club soccer, most members of the team aren't quite at the level of Bergman, who plays the sport all year. And the team has yet to make a strong postseason run in Bergman's three high school seasons.

Yet through all of it, Bergman has remained steadfast about her commitment to Triton.

In an era, particularly in soccer, in which playing for your hometown often takes a backseat to personal interests, Bergman has been resolute.

She never has considered transferring. She never once thought about leaving her high school team for a fall club team.

"High school soccer is such a unique opportunity to play with your best friends," Bergman said. "We focus and we work hard, but it's fun. You can let loose a little more than you can in club soccer."

Despite her stellar all-around ability, Bergman will play defense in college, she said, largely because she excels at communication on the field - an all-important trait on defense.

It's something that O'Donnell said also has been one of Bergman's greatest strengths in high school. She described Bergman as something of a coach on the field "and someone I'm definitely going to miss when she's gone."

For Bergman, the feeling is mutual, and more than accolades or the experience of year-round club soccer, those feelings are what appear to matter most to the superstar senior.

"I love this team. I love the girls on this team," Bergman said. "I love the fact that we've been getting better and better each year. Our chemistry this year has been awesome. I just want to see us continue to get better and better."