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Vol. LXV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISING UP: Princeton High boys’ soccer junior star Aidan Passannante, left, heads the ball in recent action. Last Monday, Passannante picked up an assist as top-seeded PHS edged No. 9 Notre Dame 2-1 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. The Little Tigers, now 14-0-2, will play fifth-seeded Hopewell valley in the MCT semis on October 26 with the winner advancing to the title game on October 29.

Lamb’s Wonder Strike Makes the Difference As PHS Boys’ Soccer Rallies in MCT Quarters

Bill Alden

In 2010, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team had to fight for its life to slip past Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

The Little Tigers surrendered an early goal and trailed the Fighting Irish 1-0 for most of the contest before pulling out a 2-1 victory on late goals by Aidan Passannante and Zach Halliday.

Last Monday, PHS experienced a case of deja vu as the top-seeded Little Tigers hosted No. 9 Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of this year’s MCT.

After squandering some early chances, PHS yielded a goal early in the second half to fall behind 1-0.

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe acknowledged that he didn’t like the way the game was going.

“We had five or six good looks in the first half in the run of play,” said Sutcliffe. “Whenever you play a team with a good goalie like that, it is tough. This is the first time we have been behind all season.”

Showing its toughness, PHS didn’t stay behind as junior striker Jordan Phelps found the back of the net with 11:04 remaining in regulation to knot the contest at 1-1.

Then, with the battle apparently heading into overtime, PHS junior forward Colin Lamb got loose from about 30 yards out and blasted a volley that soared over the Notre Dame keeper and into the top of the net with 28.5 seconds left.

Lamb’s goal triggered a wild celebration as he dove toward the PHS bench with his teammates tumbling over him. The goal held up as PHS escaped with a 2-1 win and remained undefeated at 14-0-2.

A grinning Sutcliffe beamed as he reflected on his team’s rally. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and the poise they showed,” said Sutcliffe. “They really had to scramble and put something together to get that tying goal. They believed; we could tell that they believed.”

The victory was even sweeter considering that it came against a worthy Notre Dame side.

“What a team Notre Dame is; they knocked PDS, the defending champion, out of the tournament and they fought hard today,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“They make the most out of the one quality chance they had. In the midfield, they were dictating a lot of the play. If it wasn’t for the opportune moment here or there, it is a different outcome.”

Sutcliffe liked the way that Phelps and Lamb took advantage of the opportunities that came their way.

“We have been waiting for Jordan to score a quality goal and hopefully a big goal,” said Sutcliffe.

“I started him today and that was the emphasis, to get him in and around the goal so maybe he could get us one. Colin is the type of player who just loves to go to goal and he has that mentality.”

Lamb, for his part, admitted that the Little Tigers nearly came unraveled.

“We have always been in those one goal or 0-0 situations so we try to keep our composure as much as possible,” said Lamb.

“Being down one goal, we panicked a little bit but then I thought we got our composure back later in the half. We just started playing better. Jordan’s goal sparked the team and got some momentum going because we were at a dead low. Jordan brought us back to life.”

In the waning moments, Lamb’s moment of brilliance kept the Little Tigers alive.

“I saw their goalie coming off his line throughout the game,” said Lamb, recalling his wonder strike.

“It was an instinct thing when I saw the space in front of me. It was a little bit of a selfish play; I saw him off his line and I decided to go for it. I know sometimes when we get in the front third, we tend to take our time and distribute so I felt like right then a quick shot would definitely suffice. Considering the moment, it is one of the best shots of my life so far.”

As Phelps made the final run down the field with Lamb, he went from anger to elation as the shot found its target.

“At first, I was mad that he didn’t pass me the ball,” said Phelps. “I was amazed that it went in, that was honestly the best goal I have ever seen.”

Minutes earlier, Phelps had scored one of the best goals of his PHS career. “The ball got lofted into the box and it took a couple of weird bounces and went through a player’s leg,” said Phelps, whose tally came on an assist by Aidan Passannante. “I just got it in the net.”

For Sutcliffe, getting through to the MCT semis was due to some senior leadership as well.

“I am just so proud of how Kyle [Ehrenworth] and Ben [Davis], our two senior captains just kept it together,” said Sutcliffe, whose team will face fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley in the semis on October 26 at Mercer County Community College with the winner advancing to the title game on October 29 at Rider University.

“The seniors have worked so hard. They are going to make the difference for themselves. We have gotten them this far but no one else can make the difference for themselves except them.”

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