Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 44
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
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SPECIAL TREAT: Princeton High boys’ soccer senior midfielder Evan Gershkovich blasts the ball last Saturday as PHS edged WW/P-S 2-1 in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game. Gershkovich picked up an assist on the winning goal and was a steady force in the middle of the field as PHS held off a WW/P-S rally. The Halloween night triumph marked the program’s third straight MCT title.

Gershkovich Provides Tricks and Treats as PHS Boys’ Soccer Wins 3rd MCT

Bill Alden

Evan Gershkovich has been a part of some very big wins since he joined the Princeton High boys’ soccer team in the fall of 2006.

As a freshman, Gershkovich was a reserve on a PHS team that won the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III title.

In his sophomore and junior years, midfielder Gershkovich was a key performer for the Tigers as they won the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) title each season.

But last Saturday evening, Gershkovich enjoyed the sweetest win to date of his PHS career, helping the Little Tigers to a gritty 2-1 win over WW/P-S in this year’s MCT championship game as they improved to 15-0-4 on the season.

“I feel like every year since I got here, there have been such big expectations,” said a soaked and shirtless Gershkovich after the game which was played in a Halloween night downpour at Mercer County Community College.

“This year, we had no one we had when Steve [Hellstern] and I came in. It was all on us. This third one means the most to me because this was really like our championship. This time, we were the leaders of this team. The third time in a row is amazing.”

The Little Tigers brought some momentum into then title game after an amazing semifinal win over Hun which saw them prevail in a penalty kick shootout after the teams played to a scoreless draw through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.

“I feel like that gave us confidence,” said Gershkovich, referring to the nailbiter with Hun which saw him hit two penalty kicks including the game-winner. “I knew if we could win in a shootout, there was nothing that could stop us. Even when South scored tonight, I knew we were going to win.”

PHS looked unstoppable in the early going against WW/P-S. The Little Tigers took a 1-0 lead 13 minutes into the contest as Paul Ehrenworth slotted the ball into the back of the net on a feed from Zach Halliday. Some six minutes later, Gershkovich lofted a corner kick that John Marsh banged home after the ball bounced off the Pirate keeper.

“It was wet and I just wanted to make it difficult for the keeper,” said Gershkovich, reflecting on his assist. “He came out and he couldn’t get a handle on it and John was right there.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe pointed to the two-goal outburst as the turning point of the contest.

“That was huge,” said a drenched and shivering Sutcliffe, whose team has had trouble scoring goals this fall and has relied on the stellar goaltending of Steve Hellstern to remain undefeated.

“It is uncharacteristic of the season; it was a fantastic job by them to really come out and set the tone. I think it was the biggest factor in the game.”

Another key factor in the Little Tigers’ MCT three-peat is the team’s combination of skill and diligence.

“We have a lot of very talented players and it’s because of their hard work and dedication to the game year round that we are successful,” said Sutcliffe.

“It was a goal of ours to just come out and win every game but really in the back of their minds, especially the seniors on this team, they wanted to win this tournament again. And they did, so credit to them.”

Sutcliffe credited WW/P-S with pushing his team to the limit as the Pirates battled back from the 2-0 halftime deficit to score seven minutes into the second half.

“We knew that South was going to come at us,” said Sutcliffe. “I have to say I was really pleased with the way we responded after they scored. We got the ball and we were able to play to feet. Our objective was to make them chase and we created a couple of really great chances.”

Gershkovich’s all-around excellence also pleased Sutcliffe. “Evan did a great job tonight; he is such a talented player,” said Sutcliffe

“He had the assist on that corner. It was his leadership in the semifinal when we took the penalty kicks. He had buried a PK as a sophomore in that same situation and he got the winner on Thursday. In the second half tonight when South scored, it was him and a couple of other guys like Thatcher [Foster] and Paul [Ehrenworth] who led us, we wanted the ball at their feet. I am so proud of him.”

Proud PHS is looking for another title as it is seeded No. 1 in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III sectional and was slated to face 16th-seeded Neptune on November 3 in the opening round with the sectional quarters scheduled for November 6 and the semis set for November 10.

“We are just getting ready,” said Sutcliffe, referring to the state tourney. “We are looking forward to Tuesday afternoon and getting into the next tournament to win the next game. That’s all.”

The players will be looking forward to spending more time with each other as they look to extend the season as long as possible.

“Honestly I think this is the best team we have had here; we have the most friendly team,” asserted Gershkovich.

“Sometimes it hurts us because we are not as competitive as we should be in practice. But the fact that we are so close means that in these games when it really matters we really have our backs.”

Gershkovich would like to end things at PHS back where he started. “This year we really want the sectionals,” said Gershkovich.

“I remember the feeling when we were freshmen of winning sectionals and getting to the state semis. We need to get that this year. We can win it on our home field; it would be amazing if we could do that.”

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