(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
UPWARD MOBILITY: Princeton High senior star Kyle DeBlois boots the ball in training last week. PHS is moving DeBlois up to forward from midfield, where his rugged play last season helped the Little Tigers go 17-4 on the way to winning the Central Jersey Group III sectional title.
Wayne Sutcliffe doesn't mince words when he discusses the goals this fall for his Princeton High boys' soccer team.
"We want to win as many games and championships as we can," said Sutcliffe, whose team will open the 2007 campaign by playing at Lawrence High on September 7.
Last fall, the Little Tigers accomplished that goal with aplomb, going 17-4 and winning the Central Jersey Group III sectional title.
As he looks ahead to his 11th season guiding the PHS program, Sutcliffe knows it will be tough to match last year's achievements.
"The players all know how hard it is to win games and championships," said Sutcliffe. "They have played enough to know that anything can happen. We have to take it one training session at a time, one game at a time."
Sutcliffe is comforted by the fact that he has junior striker Sam Kotowski back to take a lot of shots for the Little Tigers.
"Sam is doing great," said Sutcliffe. "He had a great club season and did well with the Olympic Development Program (ODP). He is fit and healthy. Last season, he was a little injured at the end. He has two years of varsity experience under his belt and he's used to playing against players who present different physical challenges."
PHS will be moving senior star Kyle DeBlois to forward from midfield to beef up its attack.
"We're expecting big things from Kyle," said Sutcliffe, who will be using junior Anastacio Perez, sophomore Gustavo Vega, and freshman Henry Polanco at forward. "We had him in the weight room for the last five months. He was lifting twice a week and he's significantly stronger."
The Little Tigers are expecting strong play in the midfield from junior Corey March and senior Diego Reinero. "Corey and Diego are in the center of the midfield," added Sutlcliffe. "Even Gershkovich and Jon Beissinger are on the flanks. Anastacio may also see time there."
Across the back line, PHS will be led by seniors Peter McInerney and Ari Silver together with junior Will Slade. "Mac is pretty smooth back there," said Sutcliffe. "Ari and Will bring a lot of experience and calm-headed play."
The Little Tigers should have plenty of depth in its defensive corps. "I couldn't be happier with how Nick Hughes and Chris Bechler have been playing in the preseason," said Sutcliffe. "Scott Schwarz and Clayton Spann have also stepped up."
If PHS is to have a big season, it will need sophomore goalkeeper Stephen Hellstern to step up big as he replaces graduated star jason Barber. "Steve was with us last season and we were getting him ready to replace Jason," said Sutcliffe.
"He is very serious about the game. He had a lot of experience with his Union 90 club team, helping them win the New Jersey Cup. He's played with Will, Ari, and Chris with that team so he works well with them. He has a great work rate, great hands, and he reads the game well. He's a great competitor."
Sutcliffe believes his team is collectively primed to compete hard. "The work rate has been great; they have really worked hard over the last two weeks," asserted Sutcliffe. "They have responded to the coaches and the demands that we put on them. We insist that they take nothing for granted."
And if the players keep responding to Sutcliffe's direct approach, the Little Tigers will demand attention once again when it comes to playoff time.
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