Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
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MOVING FORWARD: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Aidan Passannante heads up the field last Monday as top-seeded PHS edged No. 8 Pennington 1-0 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. Sophomore Passannante provided the margin of victory, scoring on a brilliant free kick that he curled into the top corner of the goal early in the second half. as the Little Tigers improved to 14-0-1. PHS, the three-time county champs, will face No. 5 Notre Dame in the MCT semis on October 27 with the winner advancing to the title game on October 30 against the victor of the WW/P-N/ Princeton Day School semifinal clash.

Undefeated PHS Boys’ Soccer Passes Big Test; Edging Pennington 1-0 to Make MCT Semifinals

Bill Alden

It may have looked like a bit of a mismatch when top-seeded and three-time defending county champion Princeton High boys’ soccer team hosted No.8 Pennington in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals last Monday.

But PHS senior midfielder and co-captain John Marsh knew that the undefeated Little Tigers faced a major test when 12-4 Pennington showed up at Harris Field.

“We have been preparing all week; we knew we were going to have a good game coming up,” said Marsh, referring to the match-up with the talented and battle-tested Red Raiders, who faced PHS in the 2008 MCT title game.

“The focus was to stay focused. We just had to keep thinking about the game and getting prepared.”

PHS showed its defensive focus in the first half as it blanked a dangerous Pennington as the teams headed into halftime knotted in a scoreless draw.

“It seemed like organized chaos; we didn’t let a goal up so we must have been doing something right,” said Marsh, reflecting on the contentious first half. “All the props to those guys; they were playing a heckuva game.”

Early in the second half, PHS raised the level of its game as Aidan Passannante scored on a brilliant free kick that he curled into the top corner of the goal.

“Aidan put it in the right spot,” recalled Marsh. “There is no other feeling like it when you score a big goal in a big game and your team is celebrating.”

The PHS defense kept the clamps on as it held off several desperate Pennington charges and made Passannante’s goal stand up in a 1-0 victory that prompted a spirited on-field celebration by the Little Tigers after the final whistle as they improved to 14-0-1.

“It was definitely a struggle all game to hold on to those guys,” said Marsh, referring to Pennington stalwarts Kyle Roach, Nathan Bruccoleri, and Chandler Fraser-Pauls.

“They are very creative on the ball, making a lot of overlapping runs trying to get guys through. But once again, our defense pulls it off. Beating a strong team like this is a lift.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was pleased to see his team pass the strong test extended its unbeaten streak to 40, having gone 35-0-5 over the last two seasons including its 21-0-4 state championship campaign last year.

“There is no secret here; this is the fourth game in three years against these kids and that whole senior class,” said Sutcliffe, whose team will face No. 5 Notre Dame in the MCT semis on October 27 with the winner advancing to the title game on October 30 against the victor of the WW/P-N/ Princeton Day School semifinal clash.

“We met them in regular season in ‘08 and the MCT final in ’08 and last year at Pennington. For the past few seasons, every time we meet, they are the same team. They bring a great reputation in the county and beyond.”

PHS lived up to its reputation for defensive excellence in blanking the high-powered Red Raiders.

“We did so well organizationally in the back four between Ajami [Gikandi], Pablo [Arroyo], Kyle [Ehrenworth], and Ben [Davis]; they were just fantastic,” said Sutcliffe, whose goalie Ruben Morales now has 12 shutouts on the season.

“We figured out how to solve it. They were throwing those numbers forward and we just needed to execute.”

Sutcliffe likes the way Marsh executed in the midfield. “You can’t put a value on what he does every game,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“Today, he dropped in a little more in the second half and he was more effective for us. In the first half, they were giving us all kinds of problems.”

PHS will look to keep causing its foes problems as it continues the quest for a fourth straight county crown.

“I can’t wait to get back to Mercer County Community College; we are undefeated at MCCC in the MCT,” said Sutcliffe.

“We feel so good about that; we are going to go in the same way as we always go in, preparing well and finding our form. We bring a lot of confidence and respect for the opposition.”

Marsh, for his part, feels good about how PHS has come together this fall.

“I don’t think I have ever been on a team that has this much chemistry,” maintained Marsh. “The guys really work well together. If we are down, we help each other get up. We really just play as a team and that is what this sport is all about.”

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