Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 35
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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LIGHTNING STRIKE: Princeton University men’s soccer player Antoine Hoppenot races after a ball in a game last season. Junior striker Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School standout, led the Tigers with 10 goals last fall in earning All-Ivy League recognition for the second straight season. Hoppenot will be looking to keep up his finishing touch this Saturday when Princeton opens its 2010 season with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson.

Riding Late Surge to Make NCAAs in ’09; PU Men’s Soccer Looking to Recapture Magic

Bill Alden

Midway through last fall, the Princeton University men’s soccer team was treading water with a 4-5-1 record.

Raising the level of its game and showing character, Princeton produced a late surge that saw it go 5-0-2 and earn its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2001.

While Princeton fell 1-0 to Bucknell in the first round of the tournament, the strong finish gave the program a shot in the arm.

Last year’s success has been noticed as the Tigers are currently ranked No. 27 nationally in preseason polls issued by and the College Soccer News Preseason Poll.

With the Princeton team having convened last week for preseason camp as it prepares for the season opener on September 4 at Fairleigh Dickinson, PU head coach Jim Barlow acknowledged that his returning players haven’t picked up where they left off in 2009.

“We have mixed feelings about what we have seen in camp; the mentality is not right yet,” said Barlow, a former PU soccer star who is in his 15th season guiding his alma mater and has compiled a 101-101-39 mark in his tenure.

“We are not back to where we were last year and the work rate and the energy that we had. The success last year can be a negative in the sense that they think just because it happened last year, it is going to happen again. We need to put a lot of work in for it to happen again.”

Barlow is expecting some good work at striker from junior Antoine Hoppenot, a two-time All-Ivy League performer and a former standout at the Princeton Day School.

“Antoine is looking good; he is physically stronger,” said Barlow of the 5’8, 145-pound Hoppenot, who scored a team-high 10 goals last fall as Princeton ended up at 9-6-3 overall and 4-2-1 in Ivy play.

“I think he learned some lessons from last year not being able to play in the NCAA game after accumulating the cards. He is so fast and unorthodox in his dribbling; he is hard to handle for defenders.”

Sophomore Matt Sanner should be able to handle more of the scoring load this fall. “We also have Matt Sanner up there; he had a pretty good freshman year,” added Barlow, who also plans to use seniors Max Hare and Brandon Busch together with junior Paolo Iaccarino at forward.

“We are expecting Matt to do more this year; he seems to have figured things out. He is not as nervous as he was last year.”

Barlow is experiencing some nerves over the current state of his midfield. “That’s the biggest question mark for us,” acknowledged Barlow.

“We are looking at Lester Nare, Manny Sardinha, Tim Sedwitz and even Busch there. Freshman Billy McGuinness looks pretty good. That still has to be sorted out. Devin Muntz and Ben Harms were underrated last year. They did a good job at keeping things connected; their graduation is leaving a void.”

Princeton’s defensive unit established a solid connection last season. “We had a good back four last year with Mark Linnville and Ben Burton in the middle and Teddy Schneider and Josh Walburn on the outside,” said Barlow.

“We want to keep them together. We have freshmen in Patrick O’Neil, Brady Valashinas, and Chris Benedict who are solid, hard-nosed defenders so we have some depth there. We could move Schneider and Walburn up to midfield.”

The Tigers also have some depth at goalkeeper with the return of last year’s starter, senior Sean Lynch, together with the trio of senior Thomas Gasparini, sophomore Max Gallin, and freshman Seth MacMillan.

“Lynch is a captain for us and he came in with a lot of confidence,” said Barlow of the 6’2 Lynch, who posted a goals against average of 1.11 in 2009. “He looks sharp, so far he is our No. 1. We have three others and they have looked good at times; there is not a big gap between them.”

A big effort will be required if Princeton is to beat FDU this Saturday. “FDU is a tough place to play; they have an old field turf which is slicker than the newer ones,” said Barlow, whose club’s second game takes place at Lehigh on September 7.

“They have a lot of international players. We beat them in final second in double overtime last season and they will remember that. We want to be as good as we can for FDU and then turn our attention to Lehigh.”

Princeton can’t let its attention drift early if it wants to make a return trip to the NCAAs.

“Last year, we were able to grind out some results early when we weren’t playing our best and that really helped us get into the tournament,” said Barlow. “We know how important these games are.”

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