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Vol. LXV, No. 47
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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UP A CREEK: Princeton High boys’ soccer senior defender Bruce Robertson flies after the ball in state tournament action. Last week, Robertson and the Little Tigers saw their superb season come to an end with a 2-0 loss to Timber Creek in the state Group 3 semifinals.

PHS Boys’ Soccer Falls in State Semis; But Loss Can’t Dim Superb Campaign

Bill Alden

Before the Princeton High boys’ soccer team started its state Group 3 semifinal game last week against Timber Creek, the PHS players kneeled as one on the field and clasped their arms around each other’s shoulders.

Once the contest started, the PHS players kept together, producing a spirited display of offensive soccer with several well-coordinated runs into the Timber Creek defensive zone.

“We got off to a great start, we were dictating the pace,” said PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe, whose team came into the game at Toms River North with a 20-0-2 record as it made its fourth appearance in the last four state semis. “We had 70-80 percent of the possession and so many chances.”

But the Little Tigers briefly lost possession as Timber Creek was awarded a free kick on a disputed call and cashed in its opportunity with a goal to a take a 1-0 lead some 10 minutes into the contest.

PHS kept pushing forward the rest of the half, producing several near misses but went into halftime still down 1-0.

In the second half, the Little Tigers continued dominating possession as it furiously attempted to get the equalizer.

“We are not used to being behind in games although we have been behind in a couple recently,” said Sutcliffe. “I couldn’t be more proud of the perseverance and quality of the team.”

That persistence, though, didn’t pay off for the Little Tigers as Timber Creek ultimately added another goal with 7:37 left in regulation and went on to a 2-0 victory.

It was a heartbreaking finale to a superb fall and afterward the PHS players sat on the ground near the bench, some crying and holding their heads while others just stared into space.

With his team having won the Mercer County Tournament, the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title and the CVC Valley Division, Sutcliffe was disappointed to see his team fall short of its ultimate goal of a winning a second state crown in the last three years.

“I felt we were the better team on the night, we created the better opportunities and were really building through the middle third,” said Sutcliffe, whose squad outshot the Chargers 14-7. “I thought we were head and shoulders above. We had more of the ball and more of the chances.”

While the final outcome hurt, Sutcliffe was able to put in perspective what the team achieved over the course of the fall.

“What more can you ask; I am so proud of our coaching staff and even more so of our players,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“They are amazing kids. They have quality, class, and distinction and they showed that tonight.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, his group of seniors has shown special quality throughout their PHS careers.

“They gave us all they had and they met the demands of every single game including this one,” said Sutcliffe, noting that his seniors have only lost a total of three games in the last three years as the team has posted a 53-3-7 record in that span.

“I am so proud of Ben [Davis] and Kyle [Ehrenworth], George [Kusserow], Bruce [Robertson], Ajami [Gikandi], and Kellen [Kenny]. Even though this was the first game we lost all season and we were on the wrong end of it, how much more could you do to meet the demands of the game. They had a great run, just fantastic.”

And as the players came off the field, the PHS fans on hand rose as one to give the team a standing ovation in recognition of their great season.

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