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Vol. LXV, No. 42
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

BIG BEN: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Ben Davis controls the ball in 2010 action. With senior star Davis leading the way along the backline, PHS has posted an 11-0-2 record so far this fall with nine shutouts. The Little Tigers are seeded first in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and will host the winner of the Hun/WW/P-N play-in game in opening round action on October 22.

With Senior Star Davis Leading Stingy Defense, PHS Boys’ Soccer Ready for Tournament Run

Bill Alden

Sporting a mohawk haircut with lines shaved on the side of his head, Ben Davis stands out along the backline for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

“I promised Ruben Morales, our goalie from last year, that I would do it,” said senior defender Davis, explaining his new look.

“He kept on asking me when I would do it. It was for homecoming and now it is for the home stretch. I don’t know if I will cut it until we lose,”

Last week, Davis and the PHS defensive unit stood out once again as they put the clamps on WW/P-S as the Little Tigers posted a 2-0 win.

In Davis’s view, stingy defense is a hallmark of PHS’s winning tradition.

“Year after year, defense is pretty important for our team,” said Davis, who helped PHS achieve two more clean sheets as it blanked WW/P-N 1-0 last Thursday and Notre Dame 1-0 last Saturday giving it nine shutouts on the season.

“This year Kellen [Kenny] and Bruce [Robertson] have stepped up really big, filling some shoes of other guys. We are playing well in the last few games; we have hit our stride. I think we have found some good spots for these guys.”

As the most experienced defender, Davis is looking to both get his teammates in the right spots and contribute to the attack.

“I do my best to be a leader back there; I try to communicate as much as possible,” said Davis.

“The coaches have really emphasized that; just getting them organized and keeping them diamond-shaped and everything tight back there. I am making some more runs into the front third, mainly on set pieces.”

In the 2-0 win over WW/P-S, the PHS offense put together a nice run in the second half to take control of a game that knotted in a scoreless draw at halftime.

“Coach [Wayne Sutcliffe] was happy with the way we were possessing things,” said Davis, recalling the halftime message.

“He just said keep doing that; he knew that we were going to get one eventually. He was confident in the way we were playing. We were playing real well; we were getting some shots off but not the ones we wanted. He just said keep on combining in the front half.”

With the Little Tigers heading into the tournament phase of the season, Davis is confident in the squad’s prospects.

“I like our direction; we have some big games coming up,” added Davis. “So far we have been doing pretty well. We are where we were at the end of last season so I like our chances.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe likes the way Davis is coming up big. “Ben is doing great,” said Sutcliffe, whose team improved to 11-0-2 with the win over Notre Dame.

“He is having a great season which is fully expected. He is picking up where he left off last year. He could be even more of a presence in the back half, verbally and physically, and then in the other end, we want him on set pieces.”

Sutcliffe acknowledges that his team has not reached its potential at the offensive end of the field.

“We are slowly getting there,” said Sutcliffe, who got two goals from junior forward Colin Lamb in the victory over WW/P-S. “I wouldn’t say we are where we want to be.”

The increasingly sharp finishing touch of Lamb is an encouraging development for PHS. “Those were opportunistic finishes for Colin so in that respect it was great,” said Sutcliffe.

“It was great to see him get a couple, Colin is finding his form. We need him to be a guy who can get us a goal in the big games where we have to win a one-goal game.”

Junior midfielder Scotty Bechler is picking up his game at the right time. “Scotty brings fantastic athleticism and work rate,” said Sutcliffe, noting that Bechler had a sweet assist on one of Lamb’s goals in the WW/P-S game.

“He wins all the fitness tests that we have. He is all about the way he carries himself and the way he competes and that’s why he’s here. He gives to us what other guys can’t.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, PHS is ready to compete hard in the high-stakes atmosphere of the upcoming county and state tournaments.

“We are happy with our progress but we have to get better,” said Sutcliffe, whose team is seeded first in the Mercer County Tournament and will host the winner of the Hun/WW/P-N play-in game in opening round action on October 22. “Most good players will meet the demands of the game and the coaching staff. It is our responsibility to push them. In the end, it is not about the technical, or tactical, it is the mental and physical attitude when you get into these one-goal games. We need to get better, we are not content.”

Davis, for his part, believes PHS will bring better mental toughness into the postseason after absorbing disappointing setbacks in the MCT final and sectional quarterfinals last fall.

“I think last year we went in kind of expecting some wins,” explained Davis, reflecting on PHS’s 1-0 overtime loss to Princeton Day School in the MCT title game and its subsequent 1-0 defeat to Hopewell Valley in the state tourney.

“I think we need to come in [this year] remembering what happened last year and keeping that in our heads. I think after the county final we kind of got down on ourselves so that the state game was a product of the county final game.”

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