Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 42
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
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STERN RESISTANCE: Princeton High boys’ soccer senior goalie Steve Hellstern hits the deck to make a save in a game earlier this season. Hellstern has posted nine shutouts this fall to help the Little Tigers produce a 10-0-3 start.

Senior Star Hellstern Standing Tall in Goal as Gritty PHS Boys’ Soccer Starts 10-0-3

Bill Alden

It has been one nailbiter after another this fall for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team this fall and last week’s game against Steinert proved to be no exception.

Despite generating several good scoring chances, PHS went into halftime knotted at 0-0 with the pesky Spartans.

Although the tight game put PHS senior goalie Steve Hellstern under the gun again, he wasn’t fazed.

“We are getting used to these,” said Hellstern, noting that PHS has gone to overtime on several occasions this fall and has pulled out a number of one-goal wins.

“This year we have been slow to start. I wasn’t quite worried; it always comes down to the wire this year.”

In the second half, PHS took it down to the wire, finally breaking through with 2:30 remaining in regulation as Mike Brennan scored on a feed from Paul Ehrenworth to give the Little Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Hellstern held the fort as usual, producing another impeccable performance as PHS held on for the 1-0 win, giving him eight shutouts on the season.

With PHS having developed a penchant for narrow escapes this fall, Hellstern has needed to be sharp at all times.

“I think you realize that you need to be perfect,” said Hellstern, who got a bit of a breather last Thursday as PHS blanked Ewing 5-0 to improve to 10-0-3 on the season.

“If you can get past the fact that you need to be perfect, the conscious part of it, you are going to play better. Self consciously you are ready for everything because you know you have to be; but you can’t be worrying about it during the game.”

Hellstern has refined his game as he looks to make his final season with the Little Tigers something special.

“I think I am definitely better this year,” asserted Hellstern, who plans to take his talents to the Ivy League next season.

“Last year I was coming off a season where I was injured so I wasn’t really well trained. Throughout the summer, I have been training and I went to a lot of camps. My kicking has improved; it is further and a lot more accurate than it used to be.”

As a three-year starter for the Little Tigers, Hellstern has worked to improve his leadership skills on the field, directing traffic around the goal.

“I think that they trust me,” said Hellstern, referring to the team’s defensive unit.

“We are all pretty much seniors back there. I definitely feel like it is my responsibility; I have been on varsity for the longest.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe is thrilled to have a senior keeper like Hellstern patrolling the back line for his team.

“You can’t put a value on Steve; he is so important,” maintained Sutcliffe.

“He gives us so much confidence back there. His decision-making is good; his leadership is good; his experience is as good as it gets in terms of high school and club soccer. He is so skilled. He is fantastic in every regard.”

Sutcliffe was relieved that his team was able to pull out another fantastic finish in the victory over Steinert.

“We had good possession and good urgency in the second half,” said Sutcliffe.

“We were hopeful we were going to get one with all the possession and all the chances. We have been here before; if the game had gone to overtime, we have been there three times. I am just proud of the way we persevered; we maintained our composure. It was a great play by Paul Ehrenworth to gain the end line and a great finish by Michael Brennan.”

PHS will need more great finishing as they look to win their third straight Mercer County Tournament title.

“We are waiting for guys to establish themselves a little bit better and get into the attack and then prove themselves,” said Sutcliffe, whose team was seeded first in the MCT and will face the victor of the Trenton Catholic/Trenton High play-in game in an opening round contest on October 24.

“We have several guys who can score. It is just that we have been fortunate enough to this point to get some timely goals.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, his squad has what it takes to accomplish an MCT three-peat as long as it sharpens its focus just a bit.

“They are as good as any team we have had in recent years in my opinion,” said Sutcliffe, whose team has a key regular season contest when it plays at WW/P-N on October 22.

“We need to get a little more competitive in practice; the players need to assert themselves more in practice and make it an individual challenge to do better. At this point in the season, things are in place. The big factor is the leadership in the end.”

Hellstern, for his part, agrees that the Little Tigers have some room for improvement.

“I think we still have some jelling to do; we all need to get on the same page and come ready to win, not just to play,” said Hellstern.

“We are almost there; we are just missing some sort of intangible connection up top. I think we are really going to break through and get some goals.”

But even if the offense continues to struggle for goals, Hellstern believes that PHS’s habit of pulling out close games this fall will hold it in good stead in the fire of tournament competition.

“I really think that the defense is really doing a great job and it comes down to the defense,” added Hellstern.

“Every year that we have been good, we have had a great defense. You look at our scores in the last two Mercer County tournaments and I don’t think we have won a game by more than three goals. We have had a lot of really close games; I think this team is built for that.”

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