Veterans Need to Set Good Example As PHS Boys' Soccer Adds New Blood
By Bill Alden
There is going to be plenty of new blood coursing through the lineup of the Princeton High boys' soccer team this fall.
Having lost nine talented players from last year's 17-3-1 squad to graduation, the Little Tigers will feature new faces all over the pitch.
With his team facing some inevitable growing pains, head coach Wayne Sutcliffe will be relying heavily on the veterans that remain.
"It's a really new team," said Sutcliffe, whose departing stars include scoring leader Ryan Morgan, two-way midfielders Tim Callahan and Will Shawhughes and tenacious defenders James Kadar, Mike Mann, and Dan Gerstle.
"The biggest challenge will be to replace those seniors from last year, they were a really good group. The seniors and juniors who have played before need to set an example. They need to help us handle the challenges that come from the ups and downs of a season and the need to be persistent."
Sutcliffe, who is in his seventh year guiding the PHS program, does have some skilled, savvy veterans who should be up to that task.
The team's core of returning seniors includes acrobatic goalkeeper Peter Abram, stylish defender Phillipe Francois, and midfielder Scott Callahan, whose versatility mirrors the skills shown by older brother Tim.
Other seniors back for another campaign include midfielders Mike Freedman, Rafael Costa, and Liam Golightley.
The squad's junior group is highlighted by forward Dion Privett, who emerged last fall as a highly productive sniper in the box. Other returning juniors include midfielders Kevin Wagner and Graham McDonald and backup goalie Andrew Kalmbach.
While the rest of the squad is inexperienced, Sutcliffe believes his newcomers are skilled enough to make an impact. New senior faces include track star Atu Agawa, a defender, and midfielders Nicholas Devine and Owen Nichols.
Juniors who are new to the squad include Carlos Espichan, who is coming back to the sport after two seasons in cross country, and Andrew Seo.
The Little Tigers boast a deep group of sophomores featuring midfielders Matt and Pete Callahan, the younger brothers of Tim and Scott, midfielder Jason Konoff, midfielder/forward Alex Johnston and midfielder/defender Kyle Koehler.
Sutcliffe has been impressed by what he has seen from his new players. "Carlos Espichan has good endurance and great skills, he played on travel squads through the eight grade," added Sutcliffe.
"Nicholas Devine has had a good preseason. The sophomore class as a whole is coming in and really challenging the older kids. It helps to have kids who want to challenge for a spot in the lineup and not just make the team. The older guys need to be pushed."
The highly competitive atmosphere that has resulted from the mix of veterans and ambitious neophytes has Sutcliffe relishing the challenges ahead.
"The team is already showing a great work ethic, I'm seeing commitment from every guy," asserted Sutcliffe, whose club kicks off the season by facing Lawrence High on September 12 at Mercer County Community College and then playing at WW/P-S on September 16. "Every guy is putting forth the effort we need. We're all excited about the season."