Vol. LXII, No. 41
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)
FINISHING KICK: Princeton High boys soccer senior star Sam Kotowski controls the ball in a game earlier this season. Through seven games, the speedy striker had scored 11 of PHSs 15 goals, notching the game-winning goal in every contest as the Little Tigers have started 7-0. In upcoming action, PHS hosts Steinert on October 10 before playing at Robbinsville on October 14.
Coming into the fall, Sam Kotowski felt a bit lonely up front for the Princeton High boys soccer team.
Over his career, the star forward forged productive partnerships with fellow Cranbury residents Ross MacDonald and then Kyle DeBlois.
With MacDonald having graduated in 2007 and DeBlois a year later, Kotowski acknowledged that he has faced an adjustment.
Its definitely different, said Kotowski. Two years ago, I was with Ross who lives right down the street from me. Last year, I was with Kyle and he lives down the street the other way. Those were guys I have known forever.
Finding his own way this season, Kotowski is putting together a senior campaign that may be forever remembered as one of the best in the annals of the proud program.
Through seven games, the speedy striker has scored 11 of PHSs 15 goals, notching the game-winning goal in every contest as the Little Tigers have started 7-0.
In reflecting on his hot start, Kotowski said his finishing touch is the product of a lot of hours on the pitch.
Its always something I work on, said Kotowksi, referring to his shooting.
I am a forward so its obviously something that needs to be done well. With all the playing I do and the experience I have, shooting is something I take very seriously. If there is anything I do extra, it is definitely going to be shooting. There are going to be some games where I only get two or three chances, maybe not even that and I have to put it away.
The combination of experience and hard work has helped Kotowski reach a special comfort level around the goal.
I feel a lot more confident in the box, asserted Kotowski. I know if I have the ball and I am open anywhere in the 18, its going in.
Last Thursday, Kotowski gave a vivid demonstration of his clinical finishing skill, scoring all three goals as PHS posted a 3-1 win over a dangerous Trenton High side.
Kotowski buried a penalty kick in the first half before scoring a sliding goal on the near post and banging home a header in the second half as PHS broke a 1-1 tie on the way to victory.
While he is happy with the teams 7-0 start, Kotowski acknowledges that he and his teammates need to pick up their scoring production.
The focus is to basically just finish our chances, said Kotowski. The major point in all our games this year is that we get our chances but we dont put the teams away when we should. Scoring goals is something we are having trouble with; we get the right ones but not enough. We just have to finish the chances that we do get and I think well be good from there.
PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe knows that he is getting better than good production from Kotowski.
Sam has really been great; he has made it a personal challenge to finish in big games, said Sutcliffe.
I think he is striving to get to a higher level; that is pretty clear. He has the game winner in every game. Thats a goal of his, he is doing great. I look forward to him keeping on playing well.
PHS needed Kotowski and his classmates to do especially well in order to subdue the challenge presented by Trenton.
Our seniors just really wanted it, said Sutcliffe, whose core of seniors includes Chris Bechler, Nick Hughes, Corey Marsh, Anastacio Perez, Will Slade, and Jon Beissinger.
Tactically, we just kept playing to feet and finding one another. We knew that as they pressed forward, they were vulnerable on the counter attack. We felt confident that we would have a good chance to get one late.
The combination of Marsh, Beissinger, and junior Evan Gershkovich in the midfield helped open things up for Kotowski.
Corey and Evan in the middle are constantly looking to get the ball and spread it wide to Jon and he does a great job of getting up and down the flank, said Sutcliffe, whose teams final goal came on a beautiful crossing pass from Beissinger to Kotowski.
That was one of the best plays Jon has made all year. It was a beautiful service. Sam had time and set himself beautifully. He really hammered it home with a lot of purpose.
PHSs collective sense of purpose has helped the team develop a knack for winning close games.
We are on track; weve learned how to win some tight games, said Sutcliffe, whose team hosts Steinert on October 10 before playing at Robbinsville on October 14.
We are not really pulling away from teams in games with the exception of one of our seven games (a 4-0 win over Nottingham); I think that is making us a stronger team. We know when we are tied or behind late in games, we have the confidence that we can win games because we have done it. We are playing with a lot of confidence. Its great.
In Kotowskis view, PHS has the chance to do some great things this fall.
We have definitely made a lot of progress even going back to preseason when we lost to North Brunswick in our first scrimmage, said Kotowski.
It was pouring at Valley Road over there and it was muddy. We have come a long way from there; we are piecing the whole thing together. We changed a few guys around, a few positions around.
As long as Kotowski stays in position to score goals, PHS should go a long way this fall.
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