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Vol. LXV, No. 45
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
HEADING OUT: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Brendan Clune heads the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior Clune and his teammates ended their season as second-seeded PDS fell 3-0 at top-seeded Montclair Kimberley in the state Prep B championship game. The loss ended a superb run for the PDS seniors, who helped the Panthers go 9-7-2 this fall after a 2010 season that saw the program win both the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) and state Prep B titles.

Falling Short of Defending Prep B Crown, PDS Boys’ Soccer Beaten in Title Game

Bill Alden

Coming into October, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team didn’t look like a team on track to challenge for any titles.

Struggling to incorporate new faces into a program that lost nine seniors from its 2010 team that went 17-2-2 on the way to both Mercer County Tournament (MCT) and state Prep B titles, PDS got off to a shaky 1-3-2 start.

But after a first round exit in this year’s MCT, the Panthers decided they weren’t going to go down easily in the defense of their Prep B crown.

Second-seeded PDS started the Prep B tourney by pulling away to a 3-0 win over No. 7 Rutgers Prep in the opening round and then edged No. 6 Morristown-Beard 1-0 last Wednesday in the semis.

Last Sunday, the Panthers ran out of gas in their valiant run, falling 3-0 at top-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy in the championship game.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that his players got off to a sluggish start against the Cougars.

“We came out with what we thought were good tactics and we just couldn’t string together the energy,” said Murphy, whose team ended the fall at 9-7-2.

“The plan was that we were going to try to keep possession of the ball. We just thought we could do well if we could keep their two frontrunners from getting a lot of shots off and cut off the source to them. I thought in the first half, as sluggish as we were, we were holding the ball well.”

The Panthers, though, couldn’t hold MKA at bay for the whole first half, surrendering a goal with 16:52 left in the half and found themselves trailing 1-0 at halftime.

Early in the second half, PDS gave up another goal and decided to throw caution to the wind.

“It was all hands to the helm,” said Murphy. “We tried to go to a 4-3-3 and even then there was no tempo to the game at any time. We had no rhythm. Our problem all season has been finishing. We allow teams to come back in the game, no matter what the situation is. They have no opportunity to look and say let’s go into the top and go to that guy we might get something out of it.”

Smiling in the face of defeat, Murphy praised his group of seniors for finishing their careers in style.

“You know what, they have had a pretty good season; having lost the amount of players that we did at the level they were at and to come back and play in the final again is a tribute to the seniors,” said Murphy, whose Class of 2012 includes Rui Pinheiro, Paul Zetterberg, Connor Gibson, Jacob Eisenberg, Mike Davila, Brendan Clune, and Eric Powers.

“They have been an excellent group this year. I didn’t expect to get the help out of them that I did; they have run everything. They are great leaders and they have tried as hard as anybody ever could to pull the team through.”

Although PDS couldn’t pull through on Sunday, Murphy believes his returning players can learn some important lessons from the defeat. “Unfortunately, it was not to be but it will be an experience,” added Murphy.

“For these younger guys, it will burn a little bit of light in them to want to come back. We have just discussed the fact that you can’t regret being here, what you regret is your efforts. If you can go home and look at yourself in the mirror and you can keep looking, then you did your job and nobody can say anything, no matter what the result.”

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