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Vol. LXV, No. 44
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HALLIDAY FUN: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Zach Halliday heads up the field in 2010 action. Last Wednesday, junior midfielder Halliday scored the lone goal as top-seeded PHS edged No. 5 Hopewell Valley 1-0 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. The Little Tigers, who improved to 15-0-2 with the win, will face third-seeded Pennington (13-2-2) in the title game at a date and time to be determined. In addition, PHS will be starting play in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional this week.

Edging HoVal 1-0 to Remain Undefeated, PHS Boys’ Soccer Makes MCT Title Game

Bill Alden

After surviving a major scare from Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team brought a heightened sense of urgency into its semifinal clash against Hopewell Valley last Wednesday.

“I think we learned from the Notre Dame game; I think our team came out weak and timid in the beginning of that game,” said PHS junior midfielder Zach Halliday, reflecting on PHS’s 2 -1 win over the Fighting Irish which saw the Little Tigers score two late goals to overcome a 1-0 deficit.

“I think today being back at the Mercer County Community College turf and being back in this environment, there was no way that our team was going to come out slow. Our team was going to come out with a bunch of energy.”

That energy turned into some superb offensive work as the top-seeded Little Tigers had No. 5 HoVal on its heels midway through the first half.

“I think at the 15-minute mark, you could really tell that our team was starting to get into our groove,” said Halliday. “The chances that were coming; you could really feel that a goal was coming.”

With 9:36 left in the half, Halliday converted one of the chances, finding the back of the net on a sequence that started with a throw-in by Scott Bechler and an assist from Aidan Passannante.

“Scott adds a whole different dynamic to the game with that throw-in,” said Halliday. “He got it in and I was able to get a little flick on the ball and direct it towards goal and fortunately it just got over the keeper’s head.”

The Little Tigers were able to keep their heads the rest of the way, holding off the Bulldogs to earn a 1-0 victory and a date with third-seeded Pennington in the championship game.

“HoVal is an extremely dangerous team, particularly on set pieces,” said Halliday, reflecting on subduing the stubborn Bulldogs.

“Of course in the second half, we were nervous. We tried to stay cool and keep our composure. The poise of the senior defenders Ben [Davis] and Bruce [Robertson] really helped us keep that and preserve that victory.”

With the Little Tigers improving to 15-0-2 in the wake of the win, Halliday believes a special team chemistry underlies the team’s success.

“This team has a really good sense of unity and works well together,” asserted Halliday.

“We all buy into everything we have to say and we all work for each other. We don’t want to let each other down.”

After falling in overtime to Princeton Day School in last year’s MCT title game, PHS is fired up to work its way back to the title game.

“Any type of game we are in, we just have to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Halliday, reflecting on a program that is making its fifth straight MCT championship game appearance and will also be starting play in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional this week. “It is just amazing to go back there; it is going to be a wonderful experience.”

The Little Tigers will need to utilize their postseason experience if they are to overcome a high-flying Pennington squad that is 13-2-2 and boasts plenty of offensive firepower.

“I think our team sees Pennington as a great opponent with some amazing individual talent like Ethan Decker and Pat Devlin in the middle,” said Halliday, reflecting on the game that was cancelled over the weekend due to the snowstorm and has yet to be rescheduled.

“We just want to head into that game and do what we can do to control the outcome. Pennington is an extremely explosive offensive team; we are going to have to try to neutralize what they do and get some counters.”

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