Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 35
 
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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KICKING OFF: Princeton University men’s soccer star Devin Muntz boots the ball in a game last season. Senior midfielder and two-time team captain Muntz figures to be a pivotal performer for Princeton as it looks to be an Ivy League title contender this fall. The Tigers kick off their 2009 season by playing at Lehigh this Friday evening.

Buoyed by Promising Late Surge Last Fall, PU Men’s Soccer Looking to Start Quickly

Bill Alden

Although it was too little, too late, the Princeton University men’s soccer team got hot down the homestretch last fall.

After getting off to a 2-8-1 start, the Tigers went 3-1-2 in their last six games to end the season with a 5-9-3 overall record and 2-2-3 in the Ivy League, good for a tie for fifth in the league standings.

The combination of the strong finish and the disappointment over what might have been spurred Princeton into some good work this past spring in its off-season practices and scrimmages.

“The fact that so many guys are returning helped build momentum,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow in reflecting on the team’s spring sessions. “There was lots of good competitive training but there was still some frustration about last year. The guys worked hard; they were more fit than they were last year.”

The Tigers will get a chance this Friday to display that fitness and upbeat attitude as they open the 2009 season with a game at Lehigh.

“There is a lot of confidence,” said Barlow, a former Princeton soccer star who brings a 92-95-36 record into his 14th season guiding his alma mater.

“There is a sense of urgency to get off to a better start and not go into the Ivy season feeling desperate.”

Based on the team’s play in preseason over the last two weeks, Barlow is confident that his team can put the ball in the back of the net.

“I am seeing a lot of good stuff on attack,” said Barlow. “We are pretty good at going forward.”

Sophomore striker Antoine Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School star, should provide a lot of good stuff up front for Princeton this fall.

“He had one of the goals in our scrimmage against Towson and it was one of the greatest you will see,” said Barlow, referring to Hoppenot a second-team All-Ivy performer last fall with three goals and two assists.

“He dribbled through four or five guys and blasted it into the corner. He is so quick; he has been a real threat so far. He has worked on some of the things that he didn’t do well last year.”

Barlow is also expecting some big things from diminutive 5’3, 130-pound junior forward Brandon Busch, who led Princeton in scoring last fall with 15 points on six goals and three assists.

The attack should also get a lift from the physical presence of 6’0, 175-pound freshman Matt Sanner.

“Sanner is a big strong kid,” added Barlow. “He has played for some good teams at a high level.”

Princeton figures to get some high-level play from senior captain Devin Muntz, a second-team All-Ivy performer last fall.

“He is a two-year captain,” said Barlow of Muntz, who was recently named as a candidate for the 2009 Lowe’s CLASS award which honors seniors who excel in the classroom and community as well as in athletics.

“He keeps things together in the midfield. He is a good presence; he wants the ball. He has been doing well.”

Others in the mix at midfield include senior Ben Harms and junior Teddy Schneider together with freshmen Lester Nare and Andrew Menendez.

Barlow acknowledges that his team’s defense is a work in progress. “We need to figure out our backline; we played with three guys back there last year with Matt Care in the center,” said Barlow, noting that Care, a former Hun star, is still with the program as a volunteer assistant coach.

“We need to be more solid defensively, especially on corners and throw-ins. If we are more stingy, then we can play our game and use our quickness. Things open up because other teams can’t pack it in against us.”

In preseason play, Barlow has been going big on the backline, using junior Ben Burton (6’1, 175) and freshman Mark Linnville (6’1, 170) in the center with senior Nate Krinsky (6’1, 190) and junior Josh Walburn (6’2, 185) on the flanks.

The linchpin for the Princeton defense will likely be Burton, a second-team All-Ivy pick last season.

“Burton pulled his hamstring in the Dartmouth game and we didn’t win an Ivy game without him in the lineup,” said Barlow of the defender from Minneapolis, Minn. “He is a talented defender.”

The Tigers boast a talented and experienced performer in junior goalie Sean Lynch.

“Lynch is our No. 1 goalkeeper; he has a lot of experience over his first two years,” said Barlow of Lynch, who posted a goals against average of 1.67 in his six appearances last fall. “We are hoping he can become a dominant keeper.”

Barlow knows his team will have a tough time dominating its opening night foe.

“Lehigh is an organized and athletic team,” said Barlow, who is excited by Princeton’s non-league schedule which includes a date at Seton Hall on Monday with contests later on against California-Irvine, San Diego State, and St. John’s, the preseason No. 1 team in the country.

“It’s a tough place to play; they have a good atmosphere there. Last year’s game could have gone either way. They got two on us and we got one back.”

If Princeton can get back to the form it showed down the stretch last year, things should go its way this fall.

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